East Xtra: Allderdice adapting to a new 'neighborhood'

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Growing pains may be an understatement to describe Allderdice's WPIAL debut last season in baseball.

Coming over from the City League, the Dragons were thrown into the WPIAL fire that is Class AAAA Section 4. Allderdice finished 2-14 overall and went winless against WPIAL competition, including 0-10 in section play.

"It was very, very tough," said Jeremy Askin who took over as head coach four games into last season. "Facing the Pine-Richlands and Shalers, seeing those teams made these kids better, that is for sure."

Already this year there are tangible results to prove that. After not winning a single game against WPIAL competition last season, Allderdice began this season by knocking off two WPIAL teams, Serra Catholic and Seton-LaSalle. Allderdice opened the season by shutting out Serra Catholic, 6-0. It was the first time in 23 games Serra had been shut out and it was the first season-opening loss for the Eagles, a perennial Class A power, in eight years.

Allderdice followed that win with a 10-6 victory against Seton-LaSalle on Saturday, then shut out Valley, 3-0, Tuesday.

Both Serra and Seton-LaSalle made the playoffs last season, Serra in Class A and Seton-LaSalle in Class AA. Valley is a Class AAA program.

"I think it was a good experience," Askin said of the two wins. "I wouldn't put too much stock into it. We are just staying grounded and getting ready for section play."

With an experienced roster, playoffs are what Allderdice will strive for this season and the quest begins with section play that opens Friday at Shaler Area.

"We are off to a pretty good start," Askin said. "The kids are having fun so far. It is good to start to build a little confidence. The kids are starting to find out what it's like to win a couple games."

Allderdice was 0-10 in section play last season but the Dragons were competitive in many of their games. They lost two games to Shaler by a combined three runs and lost two games to Penn Hills by a combined three runs. They also had a one-run setback against Moon Area.

"I have no idea about the section race," Askin said. "Going by last year, I would say we have a lot of work to do."

Allderdice will lean heavily on its top two pitchers, juniors Nick Bucci and Kenny Robinson. Both are returning starters but the similarities end there. Bucci is a 6-foot-4 right-handed pitcher. Robinson is a 5-9 lefty.

"Nick throws hard, he has real good stuff," Askin said. "Robinson has great natural movement. They complement each other. They are about as opposite as you can be."

Bucci shut down Serra, 6-0, in the season-opener, allowing only two hits.

"Those two hits were the only two spots he missed all day," Askin said. "We faced a great pitcher in that first game against Serra, that was a good win for Nick."

Robinson threw five strong innings against Seton-LaSalle before allowing a grand slam in the sixth inning. The grand slam put Allderdice in a 6-3 hole but the team rallied back and scored seven runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to win, 10-6.

Other returning starters are junior shortstop Evan Cheng, senior third baseman Max Kennedy, junior center fielder Demetrius Haskins, junior catcher Mark Pfleger and senior left fielder Mike Gentile.

Pfleger moves from first base to catcher this season with sophomore Sam Greenberg taking over at first base. Other new starters are senior second baseman Hunter Mervis, junior right fielder Cameron Jacobson and junior designated hitter Nate Fichtner.

Greenberg, junior Solomon Averbach, Mervis and Pfleger also pitch.

While conceding that his team has a lot of work to do, Askin has just the team to put in that work.

"The kids love baseball and love to work hard," Askin said. "They are really hard workers."

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