East Xtra: Team chemistry helping Penn-Trafford contend


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It seems as though everyone from Pittsburgh knows something about the 1979 Pirates, even if they hadn't been born by then.

The team that came to be identified as the "We Are Family" group showed why it was tagged with that slogan after winning the franchise's fifth World Series title and second in the decade of the 1970s.

That wasn't the only local historic baseball moment in the Pittsburgh area. That was the first year that Ron Evans began his long and illustrious career with the Penn-Trafford High School baseball program.

"This is my 26th year as head coach at Penn-Trafford," Evans said. "I have been there all my [adult] life. I was an assistant for nine years before that. I have been involved with the program since 1979. I just retired from teaching last year. I taught at Penn-Trafford for 36 years."

While spreading his wealth of knowledge may have ended in the classroom, it remains at full speed outside of it, especially on the baseball diamond.

Evans has seen his fair share of good teams come through the school, but none quite like the 2014 Warriors. While it may be too early to tell if this is his best team, there is no debating that this team is off to the best start under his tutelage.

"To be honest it is too early to tell," Evans said. "I have had some good teams with great pitching in the past and great hitting in the past. I don't think we ever started out 9-0 though. What happens the rest of the season remains to be seen.

"I think our team is playing to the level of our competition. If they can turn it on and turn it off, then that's fine. But we are still winning. I tell them all the time: A win is a win."

With winning comes impeccable team chemistry.

"We have very good team chemistry," Evans said. "I sit and talk to them after each game and bring them in to the office. They go out after games together and spend a lot of time together. They are a great group of kids with great chemistry. When you win, it is fun."

One of the more fun games this group has enjoyed was last Thursday when the Warriors beat Hempfield Area, ranked No. 1 in Class AAAA by the Post-Gazette. The Warriors (9-1, 4-0) made easy work of the No. 1 team, beating them, 13-2, in five innings. But they sustained their first blemish of the season on Monday, losing, 11-5, to Norwin (6-1, 3-1). The Warriors were scheduled to play Kiski Area Wednesday.

Even though defeating Hempfield was a team effort, senior Tyler Smith had a game to remember. Smith went the distance on the mound, allowing only two hits and striking out 10. He was also the difference maker on offense, going 3 for 3 with a home run, double and five RBIs.

"We just shut them down in the first and started hitting," Evans said. "We were hitting the ball everywhere. Without a doubt that was Tyler's best overall game. To put all that together against Hempfield is incredible.

"He rose to the occasion. He leads by example. He was pumped the whole time and that is contagious. When he is striking out two batters an inning, it gets the team pumped up.

"He is very tough to beat. If we can score a couple of runs, then we should win the game when he is on the mound. When he is on, he is on. We just hope we can win those games when he pitches."

Also contributing to the team's success is Smith's batterymate, junior Scott Koscho.

"He was young and inexperienced last year," Evans said. "His defensive skills are 100 percent better than last year. He has thrown out three out of four base runners [attempting to steal]. He is also putting the bat on the ball. He is one of the most improved players we have.

"He helps our pitchers out a lot. I let he and Tyler call the game until I feel like I have to step in. He is a leader on the field and I can trust him."

As good as the Warriors have been, they are still chasing their first WPIAL championship, a realistic goal for this group.

"Everyone's team goal is to make the playoffs," Evans said. "Our first goal is to win the section title. I'm sure all the teams say the same thing. We want to get to the playoffs and get a high seed. Once we are there, our goal is to go deep into the playoffs. We would love to win the WPIAL championship."

Like the '79 Pirates, this Warriors squad can do it in similar fashion -- by becoming a family.

"We have not won a championship," Evans said. "Never made it to the finals. It is not easy. The kids want to get there. That is what I work for."


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