North Xtra: Berezo, Pine-Richland have plans

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Pine-Richland has a rich history of baseball players making it to the next level, none bigger than Neil Walker.

Blake Lalli, Walker's teammate in high school, has also made it to "The Show" and is currently in the Arizona Diamondbacks system.

Soon enough, that list might expand thanks to one family.

The current star at Pine-Richland is senior Daane Berezo. Berezo and the Rams played Seneca Valley Wednesday night in the Class AAAA WPIAL semifinals at Kelly Automotive Park in Butler.

Berezo and the Rams were able to advance to that point after beating a pair of Section 5 teams in the first two rounds in Peters Township, 5-4, and Mt. Lebanon, 16-4.

"The biggest thing with our team is that we don't panic," Berezo said. "We have the confidence. We stayed calm against Peters and knew we would take control of the game.

"With what happened last year it is our goal to make it further and my ultimate goal is to win the WPIAL championship. We have a different fire from last year."

Berezo went 2 for 7 combined in the first two games but only cares about one stat and that is whether the team wins or not.

"I was 2 for 4 against Peters and 0 for 3 against Mt. Lebo with two walks with a run scored," Berezo said. "I did my job pretty well getting on base and making things happen."

Berezo isn't a player who will produce fireworks with a home run and that is OK with him. He takes pride in his other skills.

"I definitely take pride in being scrappy," Berezo said. "There are always bigger guys getting more headlines and hitting home runs. I never hit a home run in my career. I love my bunt game. I get down the line pretty well. I have to work for everything and I like that."

Berezo had the help growing up with his dad and older brother being quite the athletes. His dad was drafted in the 19th round in 1984 by the Cincinnati Reds and made it as high as the Double-A level. His brother, Matt, is a 2010 Pine-Richland grad and a senior at Duke University.

"Talking to my brother, he says to be your own player," Berezo said. "I am constantly comparing my body of work to my brother's. He is one of the best players I grew up watching. I wouldn't be where I am right now if it wasn't for him. He always pushed me."

Another former WPIAL standout who helped fine tune Berezo's play is former Mt. Lebanon star Andy Goff. Goff is an instructor at the Bianco School of Baseball where Berezo went to become a better infielder.

Berezo played outfield throughout his youth baseball career and just made the transition to middle infield his sophomore year. He has made tremendous strides to become the player he is today.

"I played a lot of outfield growing up and then started to play a little second base," Berezo said. "I wasn't very good. I went to Andy Goff at Bianco. He has taken my defensive game to another level. I feel more comfortable in the middle infield. I didn't have a lot of confidence my sophomore year at shortstop."

His transformation has earned him a scholarship next year to Virginia Commonwealth University, an NCAA Division I program.

"It was between a couple different schools, but they treated me differently on my school visit," Berezo said. "I wanted to find a school that was a good school and good at baseball. They were in the top 25 earlier this year. I really trusted the coaching staff."

Like Walker, Berezo plays his summer ball on the Steel City Wildcats and also like his new friend, he hopes to follow in his footsteps one day from Pine-Richland to the major leagues.

"That's the reason everybody plays the game, to play in the majors," Berezo said. "I know him a little bit from working out. He challenges me a little bit with the school records. If I can get to the level he is at some day, that would be quite an honor."

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