Greensburg Salem baseball team prepares for playoffs |
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Paul Schofield
Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review Greensburg Salem's Craig Walor (16) congratulates teammate Max Ponzurick after scoring a run in a game against Mt. Pleasant at Greensburg Salem on Monday, April 30, 2012.

When the high school baseball season began, Greensburg Salem was a coaches’ favorite to win the Section 2-AAA title.

But halfway through the season, the Golden Lions found themselves in the third place and in danger of not making the WPIAL playoffs.

Then, things turned around. The Golden Lions bats came alive, and the pitching became more consistent. Greensburg Salem became one of the hottest teams in the WPIAL.

Greensburg Salem (14-4-1), which finished as co-champion in the section with Belle Vernon, opens the playoffs against South Park (15-5) at 4:30 p.m. today at Charleroi.

The only hiccups for the Golden Lions after the 4-3 start down the stretch were a 4-3 loss to Yough and a tie against Penn-Trafford at PNC Park.

“We started hitting, and we scored a lot of runs (171), more than I can remember,” Greensburg Salem coach Jim Stewart. “We knew we could be a good team, but we lost three games early. We handed Belle Vernon a win the first time and we didn’t play well against Mt. Pleasant.

“Our pitching settled down. Mike (Nowicki) started slowly, but now he’s locked in. We’re a confident team when he’s on the hill.”

During the second half of the season, Greensburg Salem averaged 11.7 runs and hit double figures 10 times, including five of the past six games.

Leading the way were sophomore third baseman Max Ponzurick, who is hitting .485 with 31 runs scored, 32 hits, 13 doubles and 22 RBI. Nowicki earned four wins while hitting .360 with four doubles, three triples and 20 RBI.

Senior shortstop Sam Mattei is hitting .439 with 15 RBI, and senior catcher John Szmed is batting .415 with 19 RBI. Greg Neumann (.444, 18 RBI) rounds out a potent offense.

South Park finished second in Section 3, and Stewart said the Eagles have a lot of wins for an 11 seed. Randy Dodnak has five victories, and Nick Yobbi has posted four.

Catcher Dan Jena is the team’s leading hitter (.476, 30 hits, 7 doubles, 2 home runs, 24 RBI). Carter Grote is batting .439 with 29 RBI.

Greensburg Salem played two games in the playoffs last year, and Stewart said the players should know what to expect.

“We’ve had a pretty good year,” Stewart said. “Hopefully we can play for a while. Being there last year should help. We’ll try to be relaxed and play our game. They’re a young team and haven’t been in the playoffs for a couple seasons.”

Also in action today are: Penn-Trafford meeting Upper St. Clair at North Allegheny (7 p.m.); Hempfield tangling with Franklin Regional at Gateway (7 p.m.); Belle Vernon facing Beaver at Gateway (4:30 p.m.); Mt. Pleasant meeting Hampton at Fox Chapel (4 p.m.); Brownsville playing Burrell at Woodland Hills (2 p.m.); Greensburg Central Catholic meeting returning Class AA champion Riverside at La Roche (4:30 p.m.); Beth-Center facing Our Lady of the Sacred Heart at CCAC-Boyce (2 p.m.); and Carmichaels getting Serra at Charleroi (2 p.m.).

In softball, Greensburg Central Catholic faces Burrell at Hempfield (2 p.m.); Belle Vernon takes on Valley at Baldwin (4 p.m.); and Yough meets Blackhawk at Baldwin (6 p.m.).

Paul Schofield is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5095 or [email protected].

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