Trib HSSN Baseball Team of the Week: Laurel Highlands

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Sunday, April 7, 2019 | 10:00 PM


Laurel Highlands, the Trib HSSN Baseball Team of the Week for the first week of April, continued its perfect season with three more wins, including a pair of section victories.

The Mustangs have made the playoffs in four of the five years since coach Scott DeBerry took over in 2014. They reached the district quarterfinals twice and recorded a regular-season record of 70-31 in DeBerry’s first five years.

Make that 75-31, as Laurel Highlands won all five of its games this season and are off to a 2-0 start in Section 3-5A.

“If they continue to grow, we can be a tough team to play against,” DeBerry said. “I say that because they battle and compete the entire game. I can preach that message to them, but ultimately that comes from them.”

After a 2-0 nonsection start in March, the Mustangs opened section play Wednesday with a 13-0 home win over Carrick.

“The first section win is always big, especially entering a new section,” DeBerry said. “Our team is young, and early success is very important for their confidence.”

Last year, Laurel Highlands won the Section 3-5A crown facing mostly teams from the south and east of Pittsburgh in Franklin Regional, Gateway, Latrobe, McKeesport, Woodland Hills, Albert Gallatin and Thomas Jefferson.

This season, the Mustangs and Albert Gallatin are the only teams back in Section 3-5A. They are grouped with teams west of the city: Chartiers Valley, Montour and West Allegheny, along with Carrick and Trinity.

“The biggest obstacles are the travel, the quality of the teams and the history of success these teams have had throughout the years,” DeBerry said. “I do not want my kids playing against that history, just against other talented players.”

The second section win of the week came Saturday, when the Mustangs scored four runs in the fourth inning to beat host Montour, 4-2.

“The keys at Montour were pitching, defense and two-out hitting,” DeBerry said. “If you do those things well, you give yourself a chance to win. Close games can build character within the team and promote growth in young players.”

Between the section wins, Laurel Highlands earned a nonsection victory over former section rival Latrobe, 12-2.

“The Latrobe win was good for building confidence and belief,” DeBerry said. “Matt Basciano does a great job with his program. His players compete and are well-coached.”

Early on, sophomores Kaleb Scott and Santino Marra are pacing the offense, with each hitting over .400. Senior Michael Brestensky leads the team in RBIs.

Juniors Andino Vecchiolla and Garrett Myers have combined for 17 1/3 innings pitched and have allowed only one earned run with 23 strikeouts.

“So far, this year has been a team effort,” DeBerry said. “Pitching has been good. To this point, somebody new has stepped up at different times. We do not need to depend upon a few individuals to get it done.”

DeBerry, of course, realizes more challenges await.

“Class 5A is loaded with championship-pedigree teams and players. They know how to win, and they expect to win. When you get a chance to face them, you have to fight extremely hard to earn their respect.”

Don Rebel hosts the Rebel Yell podcasts for HSSN.

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