Patience has become a very important virtue for the Western Beaver High School baseball team.
The Golden Beavers drew 40 walks during their first six games, and coach Chad Miller believes those free passes played a big part in his club positioning itself as the early-season front-runner in Section 3-A.
"We had something like four walks in the first game and we lost [7-0 to South Side Beaver]," Miller said. "Then we had four more walks [in a 12-1 loss] against Riverside. It was all about getting the right hit at the right time without chasing pitches.
"These guys have matured at the plate. They're waiting for pitches and taking pitchers deep into counts. We're getting a lot of two-strike hits. A lot of balls are going to right field, which means they're waiting for that perfect pitch and then driving through the ball."
After dropping those pair of non-section games against South Side and Riverside, Western Beaver (5-2, 4-0) quickly rebounded by winning its next five games -- and in convincing fashion.
Outscoring opponents, 53-4, the Golden Beavers posted shutout victories against Union and Cornell before beating Rochester, 14-4, then shutting down Quigley Catholic, 11-0, on April 10 and Union, 8-0, Monday.
"We played two good Double-A teams [South Side and Riverside]," Miller said. "We were able to get guys on base but couldn't get any timely hits. Now we're seeing more Single-A pitching and finding those quality hits when we need them. The guys are waiting for their pitch."
Against Quigley, junior right-handed pitcher Steve Menich tossed a one-hit gem in five innings. He also helped his cause by hitting a home run against the Spartans. In 15 innings, Menich was 2-1 with 12 strikeouts and a 3.73 ERA.
Junior right-handed pitcher Nick Miller, who is the coach's son, also owned a 2-1 mark after three outings and had 10 strikeouts while carrying a 0.88 ERA.
"The guys are really playing well," Chad Miller said. "They've matured in a lot of areas. Our pitching has been very strong and we've become a lot stronger in the hitting department.
"We've been competing in every game and been making the plays we need in the field. I'm very pleased with how we've done lately."
Junior outfielder/pitcher Steve Robison was pacing the team's offense through six games with a .471 batting average, three doubles, a home run and nine RBIs in 17 at-bats. Nick Miller, who had a team-best nine walks, followed with a .467 average and three RBIs in 15 at-bats.
Chad Miller also was pleased with the daily efforts from senior second baseman/shortstop Robert DiMaggio and junior leadoff hitter/outfielder Tracy Brozich.
Western Beaver, which won just three games in 2010, went 9-3 in Section 3-A last season. The Golden Beavers beat Springdale in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs before losing a second-round game to California and finished their campaign with an 11-9 overall record.
"Coming into the year, I thought that if we could do a lot of things right, we could succeed," Chad Miller said. "With Neshannock moving up to Class AA and teams getting younger, I knew if we played well and matured, we would be able to keep ourselves in a good position."
Western Beaver along with Union, Quigley Catholic, Rochester and Aliquippa make up the five-team Section 3-A, and each team plays three games against its section opponents. Inclement weather, however, forced the Golden Beavers' first game against Aliquippa on April 12 to be postponed.
Western Beaver is slated to Rochester for a second time on Saturday.
"Our goal is to go out and win the section [title]," Chad Miller said. "We've been able to score early, get a lead and keep going. Our batting order, one through nine, can all hit, bunt and steal.
"It's up to our coaching staff to scout well and keep the guys ready. We just have to keep doing the little things right."