North Xtra: Quaker Valley looking for more success

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Some may say calling Todd Goble's first year as the Quaker Valley baseball coach a success is an understatement. That is how well the Quakers performed in 2013.

Goble -- who started out at Northgate and then as an assistant at Montour -- led the Quakers to the WPIAL Class AA championship game and PIAA semifinals last year before losing to Beaver Area in both games.

"It wasn't hard to lose to the same team," Goble said. "It was hard not to play our best. That was the worst part about it."

Even with the disappointing outcome to the lengthy playoff run, Goble won't use last year's success as motivation for this year's squad.

"It is a new year," Goble said. "What we have done, we are aware of it but it is one game at a time. We have to build from it, but last year is last year."

What was even more impressive than making it to the WPIAL championship game and PIAA semifinals was the dominance within their section.

The Quakers ran the table, going 14-0 in Section 1. Although Goble doesn't expect to repeat the same feat in 2014, the Quakers (3-0 before Wednesday's game against South Side Beaver) are off to a good start winning their first two section games against Carlynton and Freedom Area.

"We have no chance [to go undefeated] this year," Goble said. "It was a great accomplishment last year. Our section is extremely tough. There is not one weak team in our section. To go undefeated is impressive, but I don't think it is going to be a common theme. People are going to come after us even if we haven't won a game."

The Quakers have jumped out to a fast start on the mound and at the plate, outscoring their first three opponents 30-4, but Goble sees room for improvement.

"We are young in spots," Goble said. "We have some players who need to step up. We are going to be a work in progress as the year goes on.

"Our pitching is ahead of our offense right now. We did a better job of our approach and situational hitting these last couple of games. That is our biggest weakness. It is good to have pitching to fall back on. We got better and that's what we want to do."

The advantage the Quakers will have this year is their pitching depth. They return four of their top five pitchers and Goble feels comfortable enough to go as deep as eight.

Leading the way is Tyler Garbee and Matt DeLee. Garbee and DeLee picked up wins in the first two section games of the year.

The other two returning starters are position players. Senior catcher Ben Utterback will be calling the games from behind the plate and will also be involved in the pitching rotation. His classmate, Christian Miller, will make the double play flip from the other side of the bag as he switches from second base to shortstop this year. He will also be called upon to pitch when needed.

The Quakers don't have to worry about talent if they want to repeat last year's success. They have plenty of that. If they are looking to be called WPIAL champions at the end of the year, it is going to be with a total team effort.

"We don't look at individual stats," Goble said. "The only stats that matter are team stats. We will reap our success and benefits from how the team does. It is a team sport."

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