Riverview coach Rich Griser knows all about what it takes to win section titles in WPIAL Class A.
During the first four years of his 13-year coaching tenure Griser and Riverview won three section titles from 2001 to 2004.
From 2005 to 2012 the Raiders played baseball in Class AA and, although usually competitive, Riverview could never return to the top of the section standings.
Back in Class A this season for the first time since 2004, Riverview and Griser are looking right at home. Through nine games Riverview is 8-1 overall and 4-0 in Class A Section 4 where it is in sole possession of first place ahead of North Catholic (3-4, 3-1) and Leechburg (2-3, 2-2).
"We've got to take it one step at a time," Griser said. "We treat each opponent as though they are a top dog."
So far it has been Riverview who has been the top dog. With eight starters back Riverview would have been competitive in Class AA, but in Class A, with a solid three-man pitching rotation, the Raiders have one of the deepest staffs in the classification.
Leading the pitching staff has been senior captain Anthony Malky and juniors Nick DiBucci and Dom Conte. Malky, an Akron University recruit, is the ace of the staff while there is little separation between DiBucci and Conte in terms of being a number two starter.
"You need some quality pitching," Griser said. "It doesn't matter what class you are in."
The trio of Malky, DiBucci and Conte had helped Riverview limit opponents to 18 runs through nine games.
"Anthony is one of the better pitchers in the WPIAL," Griser said. "He is off to a good start this season. He has good velocity, he can stay in the upper 80s consistently and he has good off-speed stuff with a pretty good changeup. When he is on, his curveball can be effective. Anthony has a good mix of pitches and has the velocity to go with it."
Malky is 3-1 with 47 strikeouts this season while DiBucci and Conte are both 2-0.
"They all contribute," Griser said. "DiBucci and Conte are not too shabby in their own rights. Obviously you need more than one pitcher if you want to go the distance. Those guys right there have won four of our seven games, they are solid."
The pitchers have been very effective at helping their own cause as well. Malky is leading the team with a .615 batting average, hitting out of the three spot.
"We are expecting big things out of Anthony," Griser said. "He is the leader of the staff and leading us in batting average."
DiBucci bats second in the lineup and he is hitting .600.
Even though Riverview moved down to Class A this season, their non-section schedule had a heavy dose of Class AA competition. The Raiders opened the season by defeating Class AA opponents Deer Lakes, 3-2, Apollo-Ridge, 10-0, and West Shamokin, 6-2.
In section play Riverview scored 13 runs each in wins against St. Joseph and Leechburg and also defeated North Catholic, 5-1, and Springdale, 5-0. Its lone blemish came in non-section play, a 5-0 loss to Vincentian Academy.
"We lost our first game to Vincentian, we didn't play well," Griser said. "We couldn't buy a break against them. We made three errors in the game and they were costly. It just wasn't our day. We survived and hopefully we are back on track this season. We had some pretty good workouts since then and hopefully we have kind of got that bad one out of our system."
The junior class accounts for nearly half of the roster. Along with DiBucci and Conte, other junior key contributors are pitcher/catcher Jake Paradise and center fielder Jason Anthony.
Paradise is batting .489 and leads the team in RBIs from the cleanup spot. Paradise is just one of many versatile players on the team. DiBucci, along with pitching and playing in the infield, can also catch. Anthony is batting .430.
"We have some athletes," Griser said. "Our junior class is superb, they are all ballplayers. It has kind of made things exciting for us this year."
After defeating Jeannette, 9-0, Tuesday in a non-section game the Raiders play another non-section game today at home against Wilkinsburg. They return to section action Friday when they visit St. Joseph before a section showdown Monday at North Catholic.
"We have been excited ever since the winter, waiting for this to come," Griser said. "We are almost halfway through the season, as far as the regular season, but we are hoping for a long year. We are cautiously optimistic this should be a special season for us."
First Published April 25, 2013 4:00 AM