West Xtra: Montour taking charge on field

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If the WPIAL is the amusement park, then the Montour baseball team is the main attraction roller coaster.

Well ... that is the view through Glenn Vietmeier's eyes.

Vietmeier is entering his ninth season as the Spartans head coach and has witnessed his share of ups and downs. He has risen to the top by claiming three section titles in his first eight years as well as making it to the WPIAL semifinals in the 2005-06 season.

He has also seen his team soar down the hill, failing to make the playoffs the past two years, which included a last-place finish in Class AAA Section 1 last year.

"In this section you are going to go for rides up and down," Vietmeier said. "It is like a roller coaster. As coaches we all talk. It is fun to win but you have to take the loss with the respect to the other teams."

"I think the upperclassmen were sick of losing. They didn't want to accept losing anymore. Our senior leadership is exceptional. They are giving it their all. When you have senior leadership, good things are going to happen."

Good things have happened for the Spartans this season as they rise to the top of the section standings again. Montour is currently first in the section with a perfect 6-0 mark and are 9-2 overall.

Although Vietmeier is pleased with the way this campaign has started, he will admit he is a little surprised.

"It is sort of shocking in a way," Vietmeier said. "We have a good mix of youth and senior players. The seniors are sick of losing. The younger underclassmen are just going out and performing. We are happy where we are. It is a great spot to be in."

The Spartans could not have planned a stronger start to section play, but know it is far too early to take the proverbial foot off the gas pedal.

"I firmly believe this is one of the best sections in the WPIAL," Vietmeier said. "At this point it is a race to the finish line. Every team is still alive. I have been at this point before and didn't make the playoffs. We still have a lot of work left in this section."

The Spartans' success has started and ended with their pitching. They have won five games this year by shutout and another by allowing just one run.

"The pitching has been absolutely phenomenal," Vietmeier said. "They are taking one batter at a time. They are working hard for their teammates. They are pitching their heart and souls for their teammates.

"We are only giving up one run or shutting teams out. You can't ask for much more than that. They are young and full of energy. We are just a well-rounded pitching staff. We are playing well defensively behind our pitchers and that is why we are getting shutouts."

One of the main cogs in the Spartans lineup is senior Brian Penz. Penz, who signed to play baseball at Division II Ashland University in Ohio on Tuesday, has served as one of the Spartans top pitchers as well as hitters.

"Brian has really stepped it up," Vietmeier said. "He hit his third home run of the season on Monday. His senior leadership at shortstop and at the plate is phenomenal. He is a joy to coach right now. He is doing great."

One of Penz's and the Spartans' more significant wins came when they routed Blackhawk, the preseason section title favorite, 10-0.

In fairness, it should be noted that the Spartans didn't face Blackhawk's ace, Brendan McKay, in that game.

"We have been doing everything right," Vietmeier said. "We have been executing plays.

"Blackhawk was a great win. They are a great program. We hit the ball very well that night. Every win in this section is great."

That was the case Monday when the Spartans rode Penz's hot bat (4 for 4, including a grand slam) and strong three-hit pitching from junior Charlie Placek to defeat West Allegheny, 9-1.

"Right now we are enjoying the ride because we know the second half is going to be twice as hard as the first half. We want to make sure we finish this thing strong."

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