West/South Xtra: Chartiers Valley grabs the lead in Section 3-AAA
HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL
April 25, 2013 4:00 AM
John Heller/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Senior left-hander Matt Mulvihill is the ace of Chartiers Valley's pitching staff as well as a key batter in the No. 3 spot in the lineup.
By Brad Everett Tri-State Sports & News Service
To say the Chartiers Valley baseball team was uptight or edgy entering the spring would be inaccurate.
The Colts were confident in their abilities and believed they had a good team. There are, however, always uncertainties when a new season commences.
Whatever might have served as even a miniscule stress point to this team was alleviated right from the start, and one fact that the Colts have documented has elevated them to a high level.
"It's nice to have five or six guys who can throw strikes, who we feel really good about," Colts coach Jim Jaskowski said. "It has a really calming effect on this team."
What's the phrase? Cool as a cucumber? Well, the Colts have definitely been some cool customers this season.
Few teams in the WPIAL can rival Chartiers Valley's success. The Colts were 12-2 entering yesterday's game against Waynesburg Central. The Colts, who had won eight games in a row before losing a non-section game to Upper St. Clair Monday, sit at the top of Class AAA Section 3 with a 5-0 record and are the Post-Gazette's No. 3-ranked team in Class AAA.
If it's a so-called "arms race" to get to the WPIAL championship game, then Chartiers Valley has the type of arsenal that can "out-gun" most -- if not all -- of its opponents.
In their first 14 games, the Colts surrendered a grand total of 40 runs, an average of 2.9 per game. Take away an 8-2 non-section loss at No. 1 Hopewell, a 15-8 win against McKeesport, and a 9-7 loss to Upper St. Clair and the Colts allowed just 1.3 runs per contest.
Coaches often say that in order to win a WPIAL championship, it's important to have not one, but two excellent starting pitchers.
Well, Chartiers Valley doesn't have one or two -- the Colts have three. Senior left-hander Matt Mulvihill and right-hander Jimmy Palmer were outstanding a year ago, finishing the regular season with 4-2 and 5-2 records. Add to the mix junior right-hander Josh Lapiana, a transfer who was 5-4 for South Side Beaver last season, and the Colts have a 1-2-3 punch that few WPIAL teams possess.
Chartiers Valley was terrific on the mound last season, giving up 2.8 runs per game, but Jaskowski said this season's group is even better.
"We returned almost our entire pitching staff and we added another quality arm in Josh," Jaskowski said. "We have a lot of experience and they're all strike-throwers. It makes it easy as a coach."
As easy as 1-2-3.
Mulvihill is arguably the best of the three. He's a three-year starter who was named all-section last season.
"He's such a quality pitcher," Jaskowski said. "He has pitched in every big game we've had the past three seasons."
With this kind of pitching, the Colts don't need much offense to win games. Their hitters apparently didn't get that memo, though, as they are knocking in runs with reckless abandon.
Through their first 14 games, the Colts scored 121 runs (8.6 per game). They scored at least six in all but two games and tallied at least 10 runs six times.
"We've had a lot of guys step up in different games," Jaskowski said. "It's someone different in every game."
The top of the order has set the table for everyone who follows. Sophomore center fielder Tanner Garis bats leadoff and is hitting around .450. Senior shortstop Jake Horew, a three-year starter and two-time all-section honoree, bats second. In addition to being the bellweather of the pitching staff, Mulvihill is also the Colts' No. 3 hitter.
One player having a breakout season is junior third baseman Sam Kisic, who has opened a lot of eyes hitting ninth.
Last season, Chartiers Valley finished 15-7 overall and 9-5 in the section. The Colts lost a heartbreaker to eventual champion Blackhawk, 1-0, in the WPIAL quarterfinals.
An excellent record on their side this season, the Colts appear to have what it takes to advance their season even further this year, but their coach wants his team to remain cautious.
"We have to make sure we stay consistent and not look ahead," Jaskowski said.
"It's easy to look ahead when you get off to a good start. A battle for us is to be able to take it one game at a time and keep doing what we do best."