The ability to score crucial runs late in a ballgame proved to be a huge factor this season for the Taylor Allderdice High School baseball team.
"We saw that we were most productive during those late innings," Dragons coach Jon Parker said. "Looking back, I was surprised that we were able to continue that pattern."
Parker first noticed his team's ability to rebound during Allderdice's second game of the season against Hickory (N.C.) when it produced a seventh-inning rally and a 14-9 victory. The Dragons scored 28 runs in their first two games.
Those late-inning surges by the Dragons continued to be commonplace this season, but none were bigger than when they plated three runs in the top of the seventh to outlast Brashear on May 24 to capture the program's fifth consecutive City League championship.
"We came back so many times during the fifth and sixth innings, and that's not easy to do," said Parker, who completed his fourth season as head coach. "We showed a lot of character during those situations and stuck with it. The guys never gave up until the final out of a game.
"In many games, we'd be three outs away from losing but still found a way to come out on top."
Allderdice finished its season 18-4 after losing to District 10 champion McDowell, 9-2, last week at Slippery Rock University during a PIAA Class AAAA preliminary-round game.
The Dragons went 8-2 in City League play and knocked off Carrick and Brashear in the playoffs to win the league's final baseball championship. Allderdice, Brashear and Carrick will compete in the WPIAL next season.
In 22 games, Allderdice outscored opponents, 230-90, scoring an average of 10.4 runs a game.
"The approach our guys took later in games was simple -- get on base, whether it's a walk or whatever you had to do and then find a way to move base runners and score runs," Parker said.
Senior left-handed pitcher Kevin Silvio was the Dragons' ace and registered 45 strikeouts during the regular season before finishing the year with a 7-1 record.
"Kevin pitched a ton of innings for us," Parker said. "You have to credit his offseason regimen and focus. He came in every morning during the offseason and worked. By the time the season started, he was up to 90 to 100 pitches, and that's because of his diligence and discipline."
First baseman Blaise Galewski and shortstop Justin Zak, both seniors, provided a lot of offensive support. Galewski finished the regular season batting .516 with four home runs and 36 RBIs, while Zak hit .508 with three home runs.
Besides Galewski and Zak, the Dragons also will have to replace senior second baseman Anthony Maggio,
"You have to have leaders on the field," Parker said. "In football and basketball, you can call a time out. Baseball is different. You have to have guys on the field be vocal leaders, and that's where Anthony came in.
"He played a solid second base. He didn't hit for a high average, but he could move runners along. More than anything, he was a defensive leader and took charge of the field. That's something that you don't always see statistically, but it's very valuable."
Parker also was impressed with a pair of raising stars in freshman leadoff hitter Demetrius Haskins and sophomore utility man Max Kennedy.
"Demetrius, as a freshman, still has some things to work on, but he has some great natural abilities," Parker said. "He has fast hands and he gets up the line in right field so quickly to make a play.
"Max found his way into the lineup and played all over the field. He hit .400 and never took an at-bat off. He is very focused and mechanically strong. He consistently had quality at-bats."
Next season, Allderdice will compete in the WPIAL's Section 4-AAAA against Moon Area, Penn Hills, Pine-Richland, Shaler Area and Woodland Hills.
"This move in every way is a big positive for us," Parker said. "Certainly, some people will miss the dynamics of the City League, but for the past five to seven years, the league faced a lot of changes.
"One of the things we initiated when taking over the program was to schedule as many quality teams as we could. Sometimes we'd get pounded, but we would rather play against the best.
"Moving to the WPIAL means we'll play quality teams all the time. It's a positive move.
"We believe the guys are very much mentally prepared to be a part of the WPIAL, and we're excited about the move."
First Published June 7, 2012 12:00 AM