While awaiting head coach, Gateway baseball team prepares for ’24 season

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Sunday, October 8, 2023 | 11:01 AM


The process to hire a new varsity baseball coach at Gateway continues this month, but the program’s players, under the direction of several assistants from last spring, haven’t stopped gathering for workouts and fall games to stay sharp and on the same page with the 2024 season on their minds.

“We didn’t know if we were going to have a fall season, but we’ve been able to play baseball and be together as a team,” Gateway senior Noah Colberg said.

“That is a great feeling. We’ve gotten out here and taken advantage of the reps in workouts and games. We’ve made great progress.”

Mark Wardzinski stepped down as Gateway’s varsity head coach in June, ending a tenure that spanned 10 years over two stints.

“We understood and kind of knew that it might happen,” Colberg said. “We appreciated all the time he spent with us.”

The mix of returning and new players to the program, Colberg said, played a lot of summer baseball on different teams. A group of younger players found success on the Monroeville Junior Legion team which advanced to the state tournament in July.

“In general, we all stayed with the game throughout the summer,” Colberg said.

“This fall has been really good. It showed that there were a lot of guys who want to be a part of this and who want to compete and get better.”

Tom Hussey, a Gateway JV coach in the spring, organized the fall program with Kurt Harris and Craig Charron.

“We had a good time with the guys in the spring,” Hussey said.

“With Mark resigning, we reached out to the players about them coming back in the fall for workouts and playing some games.”

Hussey said he contacted Gateway athletic director Don Holl over the summer about gathering the players for a fall season of work if the interest was there. Holl was on board, and an email was sent out through the district about the opportunity that was available.

The interest was indeed there. Hussey said the numbers have been great with close to 30 players taking part in workouts and games.

“We scheduled a bunch of games, and we structured it to where they’ve gotten as much equal playing time as possible. Everybody should get about 11 games. We’ve played weekend doubleheaders with single games during the week.

“With everybody getting that playing time, we’ve seen a lot of growth. We’re young, so seeing more of the game at this level is very beneficial to all of them, especially the ones new to varsity baseball. It’s been a great learning experience for them. We’ve had our ups and downs, but we’re getting there.”

Hussey said the players have been patient through the ongoing process of hiring a new coach.

“We have the three of us who were coaching one of the two teams in the spring, so the kids have had that consistency through to the fall,” he said.

“They’ve come out and put in the work. There are a couple of guys working back from injuries, and a few other players where fall sports like football are their No. 1 priority. We’ve had a few guys who golfed, but they were able to show up and mix in when they could. No matter what they are doing, they are staying active.”

Hussey said the renovated facility and great weather have added to the fall success.

“The facility is probably one of the best in the WPIAL, so we’ve been using it,” Hussey said. “Baldwin called us last week wanting to come up and play.”

Gateway played Baldwin on Oct. 4 and won 10-3.

The fall slate of games is scheduled to wrap up this week.

Gateway hopes to have a turnaround season in 2024. It went 7-13 overall last spring, finished 3-9 in Section 1-5A, and missed the WPIAL playoffs.

The Gators will be counting on the return of a few key starters such as Colberg, seniors Taili Thompson and Ahmad Harris, and sophomore Grady Dunsmore.

“It’s good to see the numbers in the program,” Hussey said.

“We were a little light in the spring. (The numbers) now are up a little bit. Hopefully, we can dodge the injury situation and stay healthy. These guys are excited about what the program can do moving forward. Hopefully, this winter, they can focus on their bodies and get bigger, stronger and faster to come out in the spring ready to go.”

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.

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