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Early season section progress leads to encouraged playoff outlook

Baseball team looks for playoff run after new practice techniques, changed team mentality

+Sophomore+Zach+Rosa+makes+contact+with+the+ball+during+the+home+game+versus+Summit+Academy+on+April+5.+
 Sophomore Zach Rosa makes contact with the ball during the home game versus Summit Academy on April 5.

Sophomore Zach Rosa makes contact with the ball during the home game versus Summit Academy on April 5.

Sophomore Zach Rosa makes contact with the ball during the home game versus Summit Academy on April 5.

Hannah Shumsky, Editor-In-Chief

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As the baseball team begins to play each team in their WPIAL section for a second time with a 4-3 section record, as of April 24, the team’s eyes are turning towards making a playoff run after their early season performance.

Making the WPIAL playoffs, a main goal of the team this year, was a feat last accomplished in 2012. Previously, in 2006, the baseball team finished in the top four in the WPIAL playoffs and advanced to the PIAA playoffs.

“We are definitely in the hunt for a playoff spot, but we have to play better through the second turn than we did through the first,” Coach Dan O’Leary said after the team played a game against their other section teams. “We are in arguably the toughest section in AA, with four other teams in our section currently ranked in the top six in the WPIAL, and only four teams from each section qualify, but we definitely have the talent to make it.”

The three section losses were 6-3 Neshannock, 11-7 Shenango and 8-7 North Catholic, and O’Leary claimed on April 23 that the section record “could have legitimately been 5-1 without meltdowns.”

According to O’Leary, another goal is for the team to finish in the upper half of the section, requiring about eight or nine season wins for this to be done.

Prior to the season, the baseball coaches made adjustments to workouts, which began in the winter. According to O’Leary, practices with specific focuses replaced those that covered a bit of all aspects of the sport. This was especially useful during pitching and hitting practices, Coach Dave Parks worked with pitchers individually and as a group on techniques and care, and Coach Joe Genre used focused on pitch evaluation by using videos, according to O’Leary.

One captain of the team, senior Nick Henderson, credits the focused workouts for improving specific skills for the underclassman-heavy team.

“We’ve had to go back to fundamentals and work on the little things because we have so many underclassmen. It really helped us develop into a more skilled group,” Henderson said.

Additionally, O’Leary believes that the 23 players who make up the varsity and junior varsity teams get along with each other, and everyone wants to contribute.

“We care way more about each other and the [outcome] of the game opposed to our individual stat line,” captain, junior Jason Norman said.

This past week, the team defeated Neshannock 5-4 on April 24, leaving the team with 4-3 section and 6-4 season records. The team also played Aliquippa, Summit Academy and OLSH after press time.

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Freedom Area High School's Student Newspaper
Early season section progress leads to encouraged playoff outlook