North Xtra: North Allegheny baseball team will have a strong core back in '13
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A senior, Pat Mittereder won't be on the North Allegheny baseball team next season. That's a shame, because he has great expectations for the that edition of the Tigers.
"I believe next year I think they should be able to win the WPIAL and go pretty far in states," Mittereder said. "They have everything -- hitting, fielding, pitching. I think they'll be able to do some great things next year."
The 2012 Tigers weren't too shabby themselves. North Allegheny completed a WPIAL semifinalist season when it lost, 3-2, to Mt. Lebanon last week.
The Tigers fell one step short of the WPIAL title game, but with a young roster that perhaps will peak sometime into the future, that represented an extreme success.
"The season overall was a great season," Mittereder said. "Coming out of last year when we didn't make the playoffs and had a young team, to now make the semis, we can look back on it as a success, a great season overall."
North Allegheny finished 13-10, going 8-4 in Section 1-AAAA play, the latter being perhaps the most notable accomplishment. The Tigers finished in second place in what -- as always -- was a deep and talented section.
North Allegheny finished ahead of Shaler Area, Butler Area and Pine-Richland. The only team in section play it placed behind was Seneca Valley, the reigning WPIAL champion that was to play in its second consecutive title game Wednesday night.
"Going into the season, I think if you told one of us we were going to make the semifinal, we would be very happy with that," Tigers coach Andy Maddix said.
"We have a fairly young team. Once you get there, of course, you think you can win still, so it's fairly disappointing when you come up just short of the championship game.
"But overall it was a successful season for us, getting back into the playoffs, competing in a tough section and making a nice run in the playoffs."
The Tigers had plenty of seniors make their marks on the season -- from the ace pitching of Chris Helkowski (1.17 ERA, 0.92 WHIP) to the stellar bullpen work of Mittereder to the offensive contributions of Max Lewandowski (two home runs), George Marsico and David Steinbeck (.300 average).
But what is most heartening for North Allegheny going forward is the fact that underclassmen made so many key contributions. Today's juniors and sophomores would figure to only improve heading into next season.
"Getting into the playoffs was really important for our young guys," Maddix said. "They saw what the playoffs atmosphere was like, and that will benefit them a little next year. It also got those guys experience in that kind of atmosphere, which was huge for us."
The top five in the Tigers batting order during the playoffs were underclassmen -- shortstop Brandon Bergstrom, third baseman James Meeker, catcher Justin Dattilo, outfielder Jimmy Divosevic and outfielder Sean Fitzgerald.
Those five accounted for the team's five leading hitters in terms of average (led by the .392 of Bergstrom), five of the top seven on the team in runs (Divosevic had the most, 18) and the top three in RBIs (Divosevic and Dattilo had 17; Fitzgerald 16).
Perhaps the most positive development among the underclassmen this season for North Allegheny was the performance of Mitchell Machi. A sophomore, he put up ace-like statistics (1.46 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 33 strikeouts in 381/3 innings) as the Tigers' No. 2 pitcher.
Also one of the team's best hitters, Machi pitched 52/3 shutout innings in North Allegheny's 10-0 quarterfinal victory against Hempfield.
"Mitch Machi really stepped up this year," Maddix said. "We can feel good about him coming back as our No. 1 next year."
Including Andrew Kuwik, North Allegheny must replace three of its top four pitchers from this season.
"But there's [returning] talent there," Maddix said. "We feel good about it."
Good enough that Mittereder can predict a future WPIAL championship.
First Published May 31, 2012 12:00 am