So much has changed for the Butler Area High School baseball team from last year to this, yet a lot has remained the same.
The Golden Tornadowas only able to muster two wins in 18 attempts last year. This year Butler matched that win total after its first two games.
Although the players donning the Butler jerseys are basically the same as last year, the demeanor of the team has transformed.
"I think the maturity and the attitude of the kids have changed," fourth year coach Todd Erdos said. "They went through the winter and didn't want to have another year like they did last year. They worked hard and wanted to have a special season this year."
The Golden Tornadois 11 games into the season and is having one of the more surprisingly successful campaigns in the WPIAL.
In a section that has become accustomed to seeing North Allegheny at the top, it is Butler that currently holds the key to the section.
"I am very pleased with how we started," Erdos said. "I knew we had the capability. I don't think our team last year was as bad as our record showed. It was a matter of having the pitching step up and that is what has driven our team's success."
The Golden Tornado sits a game ahead of the Tigers with a 5-0 mark in the section, including a 2-1 win against the Tigers at home on April 9, and 8-2 overall.
"[North Allegheny] is a team that every year has a good core nucleus of guys," Erdos said. "To win a close one the way we did builds that much more confidence. Our pitchers gain more confidence."
The Golden Tornadohas become familiar with close games this year, winning four of their first five section games by one run.
"Anytime you play a close game like those there are situations in games where it can go either way," Erdos said. "We preach to them all winter that we have to do the right things to win those one-run ballgames."
Erdos is grateful that his team has been involved in so many close games, a trend that can prove to be beneficial once the playoffs roll around.
"That can bring confidence when it gets late in a game and it is tied or a one-run game," Erdos said. "The more you accomplish those wins and experience them it makes us more confident in those situations."
A big reason the Golden Tornado has been able to win so many close, low-scoring contests is the performance of its pitching staff.
Butler pencils in a veteran three-man rotation consisting of senior Jesse Sadisky and juniors Ryan Daugherty and Mark Gross. They also utilize senior left-hander Nick Reamer late in games.
Offensively, senior shortstop Cory Wheeler is the glue who holds this team together.
"We have a good nucleus," Erdos said. "The captain of the team is Cory [Wheeler]. He keeps the infield together. He is a quiet leader whom kids on the team look up to. He goes out there and leads by example."
Coming into the year, Butler laid out its season goals that may have looked far-fetched at first, based off last year's team. The Golden Tornado is looking to make the WPIAL playoffs for the first time since 2010.
"We narrow it down to having a successful winning season," Erdos said.
"Then we look at the section and what we need to do to win our section. If we accomplish that, we go to winning the WPIAL title and advancing as far as we can in states."