Last season was a landmark year for the Our Lady of the Sacred Heart High School baseball team.
By posting a program-best 18-7 overall record, the Chargers made their deepest postseason run in program history. Despite losing in the Class A semifinals of the WPIAL playoffs, OLSH rebounded by beating Bentworth in the third-place consolation game and made its first trip to the PIAA playoffs.
"We really did have a nice season," said fourth-season coach Phil McCarren, whose Chargers lost to Bishop McCort in the PIAA quarterfinals last year. "We knew we were going to have a lot of talent, but it really came down to the kids coming together and believing in themselves.
"With each win, they were able to gain confidence. Last year was certainly a huge stride for the program."
Despite welcoming back a senior-loaded roster with eight returning starters, McCarren was quick to remind his team that this year presents a whole new start.
"Each season is its own body of work," McCarren said. "I talked to the kids about last season and the success we had. We have to be cautious because it only earned us a target on our backs.
"Opposing teams definitely know about us and we're not under anyone's radar. We also know who we are and know we have to stay focused."
Ranked No. 2 in Class A by the Post-Gazette last week, the Chargers were off to a 5-2 start after their first seven games.
During its spring trip to South Carolina, OLSH picked up its first win of the season with a 9-2 decision against DePaul Catholic of New Jersey before losing its next two games against Glen Ridge (N.J.) and Washington & Lee from Virginia.
The Chargers returned to Western Pennsylvania and won their next three games against Seton-LaSalle, North Catholic and Bishop Canevin, respectively. The Chargers topped No. 4-ranked Bishop Canevin, 9-3, on April 5.
"The kids are playing with some confidence," McCarren said. "We played some bigger schools down in South Carolina and played well. Once we got back up here to Pittsburgh, the guys were ready to play some more good teams."
Right-handed pitcher/shortstop Preston Falascino and left-handed pitcher/first baseman Tim Mulvey, both seniors, return as the Chargers' top two pitchers.
Falascino, a Slippery Rock recruit, posted a team-best 9-2 record with a 2.18 ERA last season. His 104 strikeouts set a program single-season record. He also led the team in hitting with a .387 average, 10 doubles and 25 RBIs.
"We have two outstanding pitchers in Preston Falascino and Tim Mulvey," McCarren said. "We also have a sophomore in [utility infielder/pitcher] Santino Platt. So far I'm pleased with our pitching.
"We still have work to do with our hitting, but I have been impressed with the discipline I've seen at the plate and how we've been able to draw walks."
The Chargers also have a veteran presence in the field with senior outfielder Noah Shahen, senior center fielder Tristan Snyder, senior outfielder Bill Mulcahey, senior catcher Jason Lanoy and junior second baseman Dan Bechek.
Junior infielder/outfielder Nick Kocent, junior infielder/pitcher Kyle Seamon and senior outfielder/pitcher Jake Baumgartner also have provided depth for the Chargers.
"I'm pleased the most with our defense," McCarren said. "Our errors are tremendously down and we've been able to turn several double plays. We're also throwing guys out from the outfield and making the routine plays we need to make."
After competing in Class A Section 2 last season, OLSH will play against Sewickley Academy, Northgate, Vincentian Academy, Sto-Rox and Cornell in Section 5 this season.
"This is a new section for us," McCarren said. "In a lot of ways, we don't know what to expect. Sto-Rox had been in our section in the past, so that should be an interesting matchup. The same goes with Cornell, since both schools are close in proximity."
After opening section play with a 16-1 rout against Northgate on Monday, the Chargers were scheduled to play Sto-Rox Wednesday will visit Vincentian Academy Friday.
"Baseball consistently provides opportunities, and it's what you do with those opportunities that counts," McCar-ren said. "I'm very pleased with our attitude and the hard work so far.
"If we take advantage of those opportunities and continue to play with confidence, we're going to be competitive."