East Xtra: Riverview refuses to lower the bar

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In order to truly understand the expectations for the Riverview baseball team this year, Raiders coach Rich Griser went back to 2009.

In 2009, the Raiders went to the Class A WPIAL quarterfinals. That was the start of an outstanding career for then freshman Anthony Malky. Fast-forwarding back to the present, Malky is now a freshman in college and the Raiders are looking to fill his role as the ace of the pitching staff.

"We came into this year saying 'What are you going to do without Anthony Malky?'", Griser said. "We feel like we are a better ball club than last year. We are more well-rounded. We have four all-section players returning."

One of those all-section players could be the answer in leading this deep pitching rotation. Like Malky, senior Nick DiBucci has been a member of the varsity team since his freshman year and is ready to take over at the top of the staff.

"I think he has matured as a pitcher," Griser said. "He has refined his pitching. He has taken a step up. He is working on his control. He is more of a leader this year."

Even with this high praise, Griser isn't ready to tab DiBucci has the team's "ace" for one reason every coach wishes he had -- options, viable options.

"I wouldn't call him the ace," Griser said. "It is too early to pick between him and Dom Conte. We will have to go a couple weeks into the season to determine that. We have '1' and '1A.' They are our top guys."

Conte is another member of the Raiders who was named to the All-Section 4-A team last year. Also returning this year from that team is senior catcher Jake Paradise and senior outfielder Jason Anthony.

"We have high expectations for this team," Griser said. "We are deep in pitching. We feel more solid of a team all-around. We have four of our top six hitters back so we are feeling pretty good about it."

DiBucci is returning as one of the Raiders top hitters as well and will begin the season in the No. 2 spot in the batting order.

"Right now he is at No. 2," Griser said. "He can hit for power. He hit a home run in a scrimmage against Serra Catholic. He certainly hits for average. He is a smart kid."

The Raiders are coming off a successful 2013 regular season but disappointing playoff appearance. They finished tied for first in the section with North Catholic but lost to California in the WPIAL quarterfinals.

"Yes, because we lost to California," Griser said about exiting the playoffs too soon. "Anthony [Malky] had an uncharacteristic day with nine walks. He couldn't adjust to the mound. The wind was ridiculous there. We were still in the game though. We had a lot of mistakes.

"We thought we could have won that game and if we did I thought we could have gone all the way. It is still sticking with the returning players because they don't want to feel that again."

The Raiders have a lot of experience returning on the diamond with eight seniors. Riverview was victorious in its first game of the year, defeating East Allegheny, 6-4, last Friday.

In that game, DiBucci started and ran into some trouble before he righted the ship.

"He pitched three innings and gave up a couple runs," Griser said. "The conditions weren't the greatest on the mound. I think he will be fine moving forward. He does a good job of adjusting and getting the job done."

With the experience and depth the Raiders have acquired, they know the importance of not making mistakes. If they are going to lose, they are going to make sure it is because the other team outplayed them, not because they beat themselves.

"They are sharp kids," Griser said. "They work on their weaknesses and make sure they are better prepared. They don't want to give opposing teams anything they haven't earned.

"If we don't make a deep run, we want it to be because the other guys beat us and were the better team and that we didn't beat ourselves."

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