Jim Chester admits he is unconventional when it comes to recruiting players for his Penn State Greater Allegheny baseball squad.
"I don't put a lot of stock in the defensive end," he said. "I look for guys who can swing the bat ... and guys with shut-down arms. I don't care if you can run fast or field the ball."
That's not entirely true, but judging by Penn State Greater Allegheny's record, Chester has a good eye for talent.
Penn State Greater Allegheny, located in McKeesport, is 24-10 overall, 11-1 in the Penn State University Athletic Conference and has won 17 of 18 games after splitting a doubleheader at Penn College at Bowman Field in Williamsport Friday and sweeping Penn State Hazleton in a doubleheader Sunday at Woodland Hills High School.
Through 34 games, Greater Allegheny was averaging 7.38 runs a game and had a team batting average of .343 with a .484 slugging percentage. Opponents were averaging just 3.79 runs a game and hitting .261.
"We have a lot of guys who can swing it," Chester said. "And just about everybody on the team is from this area. We've got a lot of talented players."
After the doubleheader Sunday, two of his starters were hitting better than .400. Designated hitter Sam Weightman, a sophomore from Penn-Trafford High School, was at .441 with 5 homers and 36 RBIs, and sophomore first baseman Adam Wehr from Northwestern Lehigh High School was hitting .402 with 32 RBIs.
Right behind are freshman outfielder Oliver Girman, a Serra Catholic graduate, at .372 with 23 RBIs and freshman catcher Clay Groff (Allderdice) at .359. Junior catcher Josh Kubisz (Goose Creek, S.C.) at .333 and junior outfielder Mike Visloski (West Allegheny) at .341.
The team's top pitchers are freshman Eddie Emes (New Brighton), who is 5-2 with a 3.95 ERA, Jonathan Lutz (West Mifflin) 5-3 and a 3.91 ERA, Matt Klena (Shaler Area), 3-0 with a 3.98 ERA and Ted Ficke (Carrick), 4-1 and a 4.13 ERA.
Before losing the second game of the doubleheader at Penn College, Greater Allegheny had a 15-game winning streak, the longest in team history. The previous record was 10 in a row. The win streak stretch from March 21 until Friday.
"We were 8-9 at one point, but all the teams we had played were either NAIA or [NCAA] Division II teams," Chester said. "We're battle-tested."
He is quick to point out that none of his players have athletic scholarships.
Greater Allegheny doesn't have a field on campus and plays some home games at Woodland Hills High School's field and has played others at Pullman Park in Butler. It's a hike from McKeesport to Pullman Park, an old minor league field that has been refurbished in recent years.
"We just pile everybody into two vans and go," Chester said. "It's a great facility, and our players like having games there."
Chester is looking to challenge for the PSUAC title and compete for the United States Collegiate Athletic Association national championship. In the process, he hopes to erase a misconception surrounding his program.
"I want to get out of the stigma that this is 'the 13th grade,' " he said. "We have a pretty good schedule this year and hope to keep improving it."
La Roche College freshman second baseman Shane Healey was named the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference baseball player of the week for his efforts in four games for the Redhawks.
Healey, a Penn Hills High School graduate, went 7 for 9 and was on base 11 times. He hit 4 doubles, scored 5 runs, walked 3 times and had 3 RBIs. On the season, he is hitting .471. In two of those games, a doubleheader against Hilbert, La Roche had a school-record 31 hits. The Redhawks are 11-14 overall, but 6-2 and in second place in the AMCC.
The Seton Hill University baseball team defeated Bluefield State (W.Va.) in a doubleheader, 2-0 and 9-2, last week and defeated Gannon in three non-league game to up its record to 32-7 overall and 21-3 in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The Griffins have won 11 consecutive games, 14 out of 15 and have won 30 games for the fourth consecutive season.
When Jaci Timko scored a run in a 6-4 Robert Morris softball victory against Canisius recently, she broke a school record that had stood for 18 years. The run was the 119th of Timko's career with the Colonials and broke Heather Ferrari's record.
Timko, a senior and a Chartiers-Houston High School graduate, scored at least 26 runs in each of the previous three seasons. She went 3 for 3 in the victory and is second on Robert Morris' all-time hit list with 188 going into Sunday's doubleheader at Mount St. Mary's, which the Colonials swept.