T-D HS Baseball

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Alex Dirienzo and Somerset have scored two runs this postseason, but are in the PIAA Class AAA playoffs.

Runs scarce, but wins keep coming for Somerset

By: Mike Mastovich

JOHNSTOWN — Runs and hits have been somewhat scarce for the Somerset baseball team lately.
Wins, however, continue to accumulate for the Golden Eagles, who open PIAA Class AAA Tournament play at 4 p.m. today against undefeated WPIAL power South Park at Upper St. Clair High School.
“You go through this. It’s a long season,” Somerset coach Steve Costea said of the past two wins in which Somerset had a combined two runs and six hits. “You’re going to have highs and lows. That’s the thing with Somerset baseball. You just stay the course and continue doing what you’re doing.
“These kids have talent. Somebody’s going to snap out of it. Somebody’s going to come up with the big hit. We’ll tack on two or three runs and see what we can do.”
The Golden Eagles won the District 6 Class AAA championship with a 1-0 victory over Hollidaysburg in nine innings on Thursday.
Somerset beat Huntingdon, 1-0, in the district semifinals despite being no-hit.
The Eagles (18-4) will face another big challenge in District 7 champion South Park (20-0).
“Just getting through the district, especially our district, undefeated says a lot about a team,” said South Park coach Steve Bucci, who guided Canon-McMillan (District 7) to the 2008 PIAA Class AAAA championship. “For it to happen, you need a lot of things to go your way, and things have gone our way that probably shouldn’t have.”
South Park finished the regular season with three players batting above .450. Justin Dilla led the way with a .472 average, followed by Chris Winkler (.459) and Shane Fesko (.453).
Winkler had 32 regular-season RBI, and Nick Yobbi drove in 26. Carter Grote, Dilla and Randy Dobnak each had 22 RBI, giving the Eagles five players with at least 22 runs batted in. Grote scored 33 runs, and Yobbi 29.
On the mound, Dobnak went 6-0 during the regular season, and Yobbi and Jake Bywalski each were 5-0.
“They have three pitchers coming out,” Costea said. “It’s going to be a challenge for us, but I think we’re going to be up for the challenge.”
Somerset is led offensively by Drew Hemminger (.450), Ross Dirienzo (.431) and Tanner Stull (.417). But the Eagles lineup had plenty of punch top to bottom throughout the year with Ian Stiffler (.393), Brent Barron (.350), Alex Dirienzo (.328) and Michael Flyte (.322). The Eagles bat .358 as a team.
Stiffler is 4-1 with a 2.35 ERA, 67 strikeouts and 17 walks in 442⁄3 innings.
“Stiffler is the real deal. He can rev it up,” said Bucci, who watched Somerset’s district championship win over Hollidaysburg.
Hemminger and Barron each have five wins. Three other pitchers recorded at least one win for the Eagles, including Randy Brewer, who tossed the final two innings against Hollidaysburg and earned his second victory.
“I have faith in these kids and that’s the key,” Costea said. “They expect to go out and throw the ball real well. Ian Stiffler, Drew Hemminger, Randy Brewer, any one of those three are going to go out and do what they need to do. We’ll play defense behind them.
“Pitching and defense, that’s the key this time of the year,” added the veteran coach, who recorded his 300th win earlier in the season. “That’s what we’ve been preaching. Timely hitting, when you get the opportunity. We had two or three opportunities against Hollidaysburg. Pitching and defense kept us in the game. Get the hits when we can, string a couple together and good things happen.”
Costea realizes his team will be considered an underdog against South Park. The District 7 Eagles, however, don’t see themselves as a clear-cut favorite.
“This is really the first year of success like this that we’ve had,” Bucci said. “I’m not sure if our players even really understand what’s going on.”
Somerset knows a few things about the PIAA playoffs.
In 2008, the Golden Eagles stunned a highly-touted WPIAL champion in West Allegheny by five runs in the state playoffs, and then beat District 7 runner-up Trinity, 1-0, to advance to the state championship game. Somerset fell 6-2 to Berwick in the PIAA Class AAA title game.
The Eagles will do their best to prove themselves today, he said.
“It’s an expectation level,” Costea said. “That’s what we have in this program right now. We expect to be here. We expect to face good teams. We faced a West Allegheny program that was all-world in 2008 and we showed we can play with them.”

Sports editor Mike Kovak contributed to this report.