By Matthew Digiacomo
June 3, 2013 7:00 a.m. —
The Cochranton baseball team always seems ready to face a challenge. And that is good news considering the competition in the first round of the PIAA Class A baseball playoffs.
The Cardinals open their quest for a state title against Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (18-3) today in the first game of a PIAA tripleheader at Jerry Uht Park in Erie. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m.
The biggest problem Cochranton (12-5) will face is the Chargers’ shortstop/pitcher Preston Falascino. The senior has been impressive on the mound so far this postseason, though his team did lose in the WPIAL title game.
“He is pretty quick with the fastball, but was having trouble finding the zone,” said Cochranton head coach John Svirbly. “He was very good at hitting the corners with the curve, but it appeared he relied mostly on the fastball.
“That works out well for us. We are a fastball hitting team.”
And Cochranton has the offense to counter.
With seven players hitting .327 or better, the Cardinals have clutch hitters throughout the lineup. That said, it will come down to the biggest guns — Caleb Peterson (.396, 13 runs, 10 RBIs and four doubles), A.J. Nageotte (.377, 16 runs, 14 RBIs, four doubles and two homers), Jesse Staudt (.370, 17 runs, 19 RBIs, five doubles and three homers) and Ryan Northcott (.353, 19 runs, 17 RBIs and seven doubles) — to make the key hits.
“A couple guys have been struggling, but that is baseball,” said Svirbly. “Hopefully they wake up and hit the ball. That will be exciting because then anything can happen, especially if we can put a few runs on the board early.”
Then the Cards will also have to stop Falascino’s bat, where he was among the team leaders in every offensive category. He led OLSH with a monstrous .527 batting average, scored 35 runs and added 29 RBIs.
Northcott will get the call for Cochranton in a move that really was written in stone. The senior has been incredible for Cochranton this season, leading the team in every pitching category. In fact, it was not even close.
Northcott has already posted an 8-1 record with a 1.90 ERA. In 62 2/3 innings, the senior has allowed just 15 walks and 42 hits — just seven for extra bases — and struck out 85 batters. He has held opponents to a .187 batting average and .256 on base percentage.
“The numbers are incredible,” said Svirbly. “And that counts the nine runs in seven innings against Saegertown. (Catcher) Caleb (Peterson) also deserves credit. They work very well together.”
The rest of the team was just 4-4 with a 6.80 ERA. In 49 innings, they allowed 36 walks and 69 hits — 16 for extra bases — while striking out 25. Opponents hit .330 and had an OBP of .447 when Northcott was not firing pitches.
“A lot of people out there didn’t think we could (win districts),” said Svirbly. “We are feeding off that right now.”