North Xtra: Shady Side tries to regroup after semifinal loss

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They've been playing baseball at Shady Side Academy, Bob Grandizio said, since 1894.

Although Grandizio has been alive for only a fraction of that time, he has enough of a knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the program's history that he seemingly can recite all of it.

As per any of it that relates to teams that were knocked out of the WPIAL playoffs but succeeded in the PIAA tournament, Indians players should expect to hear about all of it from Grandizio in the coming days.

"The kids will be tired of hearing that from me, I'm sure," said Grandizio, Shady Side Academy's coach who also is part of the faculty at the school, an alumnus and son of the team's former coach. "We'll definitely make sure we stress that."

Coming off what Grandizio termed "a truly disappointing loss for the kids" three days ago, the coaching staff's No. 1 task is to get the Indians refocused for the PIAA playoffs.

Shady Side Academy (17-3) lost, 2-1, to defending WPIAL and PIAA champion Riverside Monday in the WPIAL Class AA semifinals. It was an error-filled, close game that Grandizio said was tough on the players.

He gave them two days off to let it get out of their systems. Come today, the coach's plan was to turn the page and turn everyone's attention to the PIAA tournament.

Shady Side Academy will open play in the PIAA Class AA playoffs Monday, June 4 at a site and time to be determined. Pending the outcome of next week's Riverside-Ellwood City WPIAL title game, the Indians will play either the District 6 champion or the District 5 champion.

"The kids know they had [Monday's game] in their hands against a great opponent that had won the WPIAL and states last year," said Grandizio, who's been around the Shady Side program as the son of the coach, a player, an assistant coach or head coach since the 1970s. "We've got to get the kids back in the right frame of mind and make them understand there's a bigger goal.

"There's a lot of hype around here for WPIALs and understandably so."

But at the same time, what is recognized as a state championship can be even more timeless and will be more treasured -- particularly for players who graduate and move to a different part of the country.

But overcoming the WPIAL elimination hangover is only part of what the Indians' players will have to do to focus on the PIAA tournament over the next 11 days. Next week is final exams week at Shady Side Academy -- and at a school of its repute, the finals there are akin to college exams.

Plus, the school's prom is scheduled for June 3 -- the eve of the team's PIAA playoff opener.

"We're going to have to have another conversation with the players about that one," Grandizio said with a chuckle.

Off the top of his head, Grandizio listed a couple of examples of teams in recent Shady Side baseball history that overcame disappointing WPIAL defeats by making spirited PIAA runs.

In 2001, the Indians brushed off a tough loss to Ellwood City in the WPIAL title game with a 10-0 victory in the first round of the PIAA tournament. To further illustrate the point, Burrell, a team Shady Side Academy beat in the WPIAL semifinals that season, advanced all the way to the PIAA title game.

In 2009, Shady Side Academy won the WPIAL championship in its most recent appearance in the title game. It would then lose its PIAA playoff opener, but the team the Indians beat in the WPIAL semifinals, South Fayette, not only won a WPIAL consolation game but reeled off three more victories to reach the PIAA championship contest.

"I think the kids went into [Monday] expecting to be playing for a WPIAL championship," Grandizio said. "They'll get a couple days to get [the loss] out of their system and refocused for states.

"We'll do some scrimmages, just some intrasquad-type of things, just get back to basics. We have a little work to get in to hopefully get the confidence and mechanics back to where we need it to be. If we do that, we're quite capable of making a run at the state championship."


First Published May 24, 2012 12:00 AM


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