East Xtra: Greensburg CC hopes to challenge for a section title

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Not many high school players have the opportunity to participate in such an extravaganza as Greensburg Central Catholic and Greensburg Salem did on Sunday.

The Centurions and Golden Lions played in the inaugural Armed Forces Game on the campus of Seton Hill University in front of family, friends and the Seton Hill baseball team.

"It was great from all standpoints," Greensburg Central Catholic coach Anthony Marley said. "We played right after Seton Hill's doubleheader. We had raffles throughout the game. Both teams were wearing camo jersies. We want to make that an annual game. We want to play that crosstown rival."

It was a lot more enjoyable for the Centurions, who came away with an 8-1 victory. GCC (3-2, 1-0) also enjoyed its first trip south to the Cal Ripken Tournament in Myrtle Beach, S.C., where it went 1-2.

"We played three games in Myrtle Beach," said Marley, who is in his second year as the Centurions head coach. "We lost an extra-inning game to Trinity [from Washington County] and to a team from Kentucky.

"This was our first year going down south. It was a great trip and it is something I would like to do on a yearly bases."

In his first year, Marley led the Centurions to a second-place finish in Class AA Section 4, finishing one game behind section champion Steel Valley. GCC advanced to the WPIAL quarterfinals before losing to Deer Lakes, 4-3.

In order to win the section title, it isn't just Steel Valley that the Centurions are worried about. Although Steel Valley is the team to beat, GCC realizes that if it takes anyone lightly, it can come out on the wrong side of the scoreboard.

"You can't take any team lightly," Marley said. "It is obvious that Steel Valley returns a great team. I am going to give every team respect. If you give up, any team can beat you."

The Centurions will get their first whack at the Ironmen today at West Field in Munhall.

To this point, the offense has not been a problem for the Centurions, scoring 32 runs in their three wins.

"Our bats are coming around," Marley said. "We are trying to get them to be patient and having a plan at the plate. They are getting on base, whether it is a walk or a hit. We only scored three runs total in our two losses.

"There is a correlation of having good at-bats and scoring runs. Game by game, we are hitting the ball. It is nice to see some of the guys in the bottom of the order come through."

Another group coming around is the young pitching staff led by juniors Cole Reese and Collin Liberatore. Reese, who is in his first year as a full-time starter, picked up the win against Greensburg Salem, hurling six innings of two-hit ball and allowed only one run.

Liberatore had a minor setback after breaking a bone in his non-throwing thumb in Myrtle Beach, but looks to get back on the mound by the end of the week.

Also looking to make an impact is freshman Neil McDermott and sophomore Sam Nowicki.

"They are going to be looked on to eat up some innings and give us quality starts," Marley said.

It is a long journey that has just begun for the Centurions on their road to the playoffs, but Marley promises his team will not look ahead. Not even to the next inning.

"This year [our goal] is to win the section," Marley said. "We had some great playoff experience. We are a young team that has some talent. We only have two seniors.

"These guys need to work hard in practice and buy into the system and I think we will be pretty successful. We are going to take a game-by-game and inning-by-inning approach."

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