South Xtra: Upper St. Clair finding plenty of ways to win

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With high school baseball season officially over, it is time to put away the aluminum bats and break out the wooden ones. Since the beginning of last year, Pennsylvania adopted the rule to use wooden bats in its league, resulting in a more pitcher-friendly league.

"It was an adjustment last year but we are getting more comfortable with it," Upper St. Clair American Legion assistant manager Tim Pavlic said.

"If I'm a pitcher I'm loving it because a triple is now an out. Small ball is utilized a little bit more because of the change. We bunt more than we would with aluminum. We have hit one home run but more often than not we are not going to."

Pavlic and manager H.B. Mertz have switched roles from last year.

The adjustment has bode well for USC, which has jumped out to a 6-2 record, winning in all kinds of ways. It beat Elizabeth Forward twice by one run and won its other four games by the 10-run rule against Carrick, Chartiers Valley, South Park and Peters Township. It also has suffered losses against West Mifflin and Bethel Park.

No matter the result, USC makes sure it never gets too high or too low.

"We just show up and have fun," Pavlic said. "When we got 10-runned by West Mifflin there was no worse reaction than when we 10-runned Carrick.

"The kids are working hard and having fun and working on different aspects of their game."

USC is one of the younger teams in the league with no college representatives and only two players with starting experience on the varsity team this year that went 10-8 and missed the Class AAAA playoffs.

Mason McGuire was the starting left fielder for the Panthers but has made the transition to shortstop for legion. Chaz Mertz was the starting catcher during the school year and holds down the fort as well during the summer.

"I would say Mason and Clayton Dubbs have carried the team on offense," Pavlic said. "Chaz is the leader on the team by far, as the catcher."

Leading the pitching attack are seniors Ben Boyd and Jeffrey Ardolino, who each have contributed two wins.

USC witnessed success last year in winning the 10-team Allegheny South section, but commitment issues disallowed them from making it any further.

"We won our section," Pavlic said. "We won the Allegheny South. We went on to regionals but didn't have enough kids to go so we gave our spot to West Mifflin.

"It was a difficult year last year for commitment of kids. The commitment of teams in the league is much better this year than last year. Teams are trying to get their games in."

As for what he expects for the rest of the summer, Pavlic just wants to see his team have fun.

"I think we have an average team," Pavlic said. "We just want to be competitive. An 0-for-3 outing at the plate is not going to do much for you. We aren't going to yell at them. It is a much different atmosphere.

"They enjoy playing in the summer. The wood bat adds an element to something they don't have in the spring."

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