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Monessen baseball looks to build off last season

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Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Monessen's Cory Fleming practices pitching throws during team baseball practice Thursday, March 15, 2018 at Monessen's Memorial Field.
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Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Monessen head baseball coach Bill Matush works with his team during practice Thursday, March 15, 2018 at Monessen's Memorial Field.
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Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Monessen's Darius Stevenson runs the ball for a throw to home plate during infield and outfield drills at team baseball practice Thursday, March 15, 2018 at Monessen's Memorial Field.
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Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Monessen's Nate Lynch works on first base during infield and outfield drills at team baseball practice Thursday, March 15, 2018 at Monessen's Memorial Field.
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Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Monessen's Tyler Caterino practices pitching throws during team baseball practice Thursday, March 15, 2018 at Monessen's Memorial Field.

Three of the four semifinalists in the 2017 WPIAL Class A baseball playoffs came from Section 2.

Monessen, the fourth playoff-qualifier from the section last season, wants to duplicate that success.

The Greyhounds’ season ended with a 3-2 loss to Union in the first round. Monessen (7-10, 6-6) returns a solid core that hopes it can build off the program’s first playoff appearance since 2014.

“It gave the kids some confidence when we made it to the playoffs last year,” coach Bill Matush said. “It gave them confidence that they can play at that level and get to the playoffs. The experience part of it will be the crucial part of it.”

Monessen will be led by four seniors: pitcher Cory Fleming, first baseman Antonio Rhome and pitcher/infielders Tyler Caterino and Nick Baker.

Fleming has committed to Westminster, and Rhome will play at Penn State New Kensington. Caterino plans to play soccer for Westminster.

Matush expects more growth from sophomore center fielder Cam Frolo and junior catcher Zac Evans. Matush will lean on his senior class to make sure Frolo, Evans and the rest of the underclassmen understand the program’s expectations.

“They make things a lot easier for me this year. This is one of my coaching years where I can do a little bit less, and they can takeover,” Matush said. “I notice the seniors are always helping someone on the tee or pitching fundamentals.

“It makes things a lot easier in practice. I don’t have to stop practice 10 times to explain something. Everyone understands what the drill is for and what’s expected in the drill.”

Defending WPIAL champion Jeannette, WPIAL runner-up Greensburg Central Catholic and defending section champion Jefferson-Morgan were the other playoff qualifiers from Section 2.

“I always try to schedule tough games in nonsection. I thrive on the competitiveness of the other teams,” Matush said. “I’d rather play tough games than the easy games.

“It goes with my mindset that I share with the kids. You want to get better by playing the best. You got to be ready to play every game.”

Last season, Monessen swept the season series against Mapletown, West Greene and Geibel to finish fourth. The Greyhounds were swept by the section’s top three teams.

“I stress the fundamentals with them all the time. I tell them to not take it for granted that we were in the playoffs last year,” Matush said.

“We aren’t going to automatically get into it this year, and we’re going to move on further than we did last year.”

Monessen will open at home against Southmoreland at 4 p.m. Friday followed by back-to-back games at home against Frazier on Mar. 27 and Bentworth on Mar. 28.

Andrew John is a freelance writer.

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