South/West Xtra: Chartiers Valley in driver's seat for Section 3-AAA title

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The hardest part of piecing together a puzzle is the beginning.

It takes a lot of time and patience, especially starting from scratch.

It's no different for a baseball team.

For Chartiers Valley, coach Jim Jaskowski has been searching for the perfect pieces to the puzzle. The Colts began the season 1-2 but smoothed out the kinks in their lineup to the tune of a 12-3 overall record and a perfect 8-0 mark in Class AAA Section 3. They have clinched at least a tie for the section title.

"Honestly, it was putting the pieces to the puzzle together," said Jaskowski, in his ninth season as the Colts coach. "Seeing who fits where. We experimented a lot and we just needed to gain experience."

The Colts really hit their stride once section play started, winning eight of their past nine games with the only loss coming against Elizabeth Forward in a non-section matchup.

Through Tuesday with just two section games remaining on the schedule, the Colts still have an opportunity to accomplish one of the hardest feats in any sport -- perfection.

"It's really hard [to go unbeaten]," Jaskowski said. "It's hard with three or four games a week to have the pitching. It is hard to have your best game every game. There is always some bad luck or a hot pitcher you run into. To stay on that consistency is very hard."

Even though Jaskowski agreed that it would be pretty cool to accomplish that, his primary goal is to win the section title, undefeated or not.

"Right now we are focused on winning the section," said Jaskowski, a 1991 Bethel Park High School graduate and a longtime standout in the Greater Pittsburgh Federation League in semipro baseball. "We are starting off with the smaller goal and hoping to reach the bigger one after that.

"Taking each game's best punch is part of the consistency. They practice hard. We haven't had a game where we questioned their focus. It is not always easy to do to get your kids up to play and that is impressive on their part."

The Colts are coming off one of their more impressive victories of the season, a shutout win at Keystone Oaks in what Jaskowski called, "a playoff atmosphere type of game."

"We just defeated Keystone Oaks, 4-0," Jaskowski said. "I think right now that is the win to look at. It is a measuring stick. It was a playoff style of a game where we had to execute fully. We did all the small things that happen in the playoffs.

"Especially coming off a loss to Elizabeth Forward, I wanted to see how we responded."

After their 10-0 victory against Trinity on Tuesday at Consol Energy Park in Washington, the Colts were a win away from clinching the outright section title. They were scheduled to play McGuffey Wednesday.

Going back to the puzzle pieces, the Colts have received contributions from a variety of players from sophomores to seniors.

On the mound, senior Josh Lapiana has served as the team's top pitcher.

"Our pitching has been great," Jaskowski said. "Josh has been our No. 1. He lost his first game of the year against Mt. Lebanon but ran the table ever since. He has been dominant. He has been an absolute workhorse. I have so much confidence that he can match any No. 1 out there. We feel like we can win against anyone when he is on the mound."

Fellow senior Tom Costello serves as a nice one-two punch to Lapiana and the Colts. Costello's biggest win was the first of the year for the Colts, a 2-0 decision against Canon-McMillan.

Offensively, the team goes as junior Tanner Garris does.

"Tanner is our leadoff hitter," Jaskowski said. "He has been our catalyst. He is also our best defensive player. Our offense goes when he goes."

The Colts most consistent hitter has been sophomore Joe Sibeto and the offense has taken off when they filled one of the biggest pieces of the puzzle inserting sophomore third baseman Eddie Flohr into the lineup.

With the puzzle nearly complete, the Colts are ready to lay down that final piece and win their first WPIAL championship.

"We want to dogpile in the finals," Jaskowski said. "That is everything that we are shooting for. It is such a hard tournament to win.

"Our kids have practiced so hard and I give them so much credit for that. We have the personnel to make a run. You need a lot of things to go your way."

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