The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Mike Mastovich

April 16, 2013

Mountain Cats no strangers to adversity

JOHNSTOWN — The Pitt-Johnstown baseball team has faced plenty of adversity this season. So, why should the fact that the Mountain Cats must finish on an extraordinary run to keep their postseason hopes intact create any additional pressure?

This season, UPJ is accustomed to dealing with tough breaks, numerous injuries, illnesses, health issues and more than its share of narrow defeats.

Veteran Mountain Cats coach Todd Williams isn’t complaining or asking for sympathy as his team prepares for an important WVIAC doubleheader on Wednesday at Davis & Elkins.

There’s no time to wonder, “What if?”

“We battled,” Williams said after a pivotal doubleheader sweep of Alderson-Broaddus on Saturday afternoon at Point Stadium. “That’s all we do. That’s our goal – battle, battle, battle.”

The Cats have battled the opposition as well as the injury bug while going 19-16, 10-13 in WVIAC North play. Eight of those conference losses came by one run.

“It’s been rough,” said freshman third baseman Nate Negri, who received unexpected playing time Saturday due to a freak leg injury suffered by regular starter Jeff Campbell during pregame warm-ups. Yes, it’s been that kind of season.

“There have been a lot of changes, but we’ve stuck through it and stuck together,” said Negri, who responded with a three-run homer over the left-field screen that propelled UPJ to a 6-5 win in Saturday’s second game. “We’ve made the most out of it.”

Williams, his coaching staff and players have done a tremendous job dealing with the uncertainty.

On Saturday, pitcher John Fees was out to a solid start in a Game 1 win over Alderson-Broaddus. But Williams said Fees suddenly became too ill to pitch and left the game after the fourth inning. The bullpen finished the job in a 5-3 win.

“Guys are up there chasing foul balls,” Williams said, pointing to his injured players in the stands and press box. “(Nate) Sabados is out, Rylan (Schnably) is out. (Steve) Bender is out. (Elliot) Chamberlain is out. (Jeff) Campbell is out. (Kyle) Morrow is playing with two bad groins and can’t run. Fees is getting sick in the middle of the game.

“Campbell got hit in the pregame on the kneecap with the baseball and it swelled up and stiffened up so we had to put a freshman (Negri) in at third. We have to mix and match and make it work. We’re just trying to get through the injuries.”

UPJ’s chances took another hit on Sunday as Alderson-Broaddus won a 14-9 slugfest in the series finale at the Point.

Still, there are positives resulting from UPJ’s juggling act.

Inadvertently, the Cats are building depth and gaining game experience on a roster that includes only three seniors. That bodes well for the future.

In the short-term, this gritty group is making a legitimate run to get back into playoff contention in the WVIAC.

Granted, UPJ will nearly have to win out in conference play. But there still is hope during what once seemed like a lost season.

“As a pitcher, it’s been weird having different players behind you,” said junior right-hander Derek Younker, who picked up his fifth win on Saturday. “But we came together as a team. Baseball is a weird game. We’ve had all kinds of things thrown at us and we’ve come through. Hopefully, the rest of the way, we’ll keep coming through.”

Williams likes that line of thinking. He frequently smiled while talking after the doubleheader sweep on Saturday.

“That shows heart and that’s what I’m looking for,” Williams said. “You’ve got to keep playing no matter what. Injuries are part of the game. We’re getting besieged with them, but we’ve got to keep playing.”

UPJ started the season 5-1 and was 10-3 before injuries took a toll and led to a run of 12 losses in 19 games entering last weekend.

“We have to win,” Williams said. “If we win four out of five, we’re right back in the thick of things.”

Now, those are the type of more conventional numbers a coach likes to think about.

At least those projections are better than the details on an injury report.

Mike Mastovich is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat.


Text Only | Photo Reprints
Mike Mastovich
  • Mastovich, Mike Mike Mastovich | Juniors bring fresh flavor to 61st Amateur

    The Sunnehanna Amateur Tournament for Champions has attracted some of the best young golfers in the game during the past six decades.
    Tiger Woods was a teenager when he played the Sunnehanna Country Club course.

    June 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mastovich, Mike MIKE MASTOVICH| Simon aiming for second life

    Geroy Simon never allowed obstacles or naysayers’ opinions to deter him throughout a career as the most prolific receiver in the history of the Canadian Football League.
    So, when Geroy says the primary goal in his post-playing career is to become a general manager, it probably isn’t wise to bet against the Greater Johnstown High School graduate.

    June 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • mastovich, mike color.JPG MIKE MASTOVICH| Huskies hot again this season

    Cosie Aliquo heard people talking about how talented his Bishop Carroll boys’ basketball team is this season.
    He’s read the preseason news clippings and certainly noticed that the Huskies were ranked third in the state in one Class A preseason poll.

    December 14, 2013 1 Photo

  • mastovich, mike MIKE MASTOVICH| Shaffer revitalizes Richland's passing game

    Two years ago, Brandon Bailey saw potential in a tall, strong-armed quarterback looking to establish himself in the Richland High program.
    Matt Shaffer was a sophomore splitting the quarterback duties with classmate Nico Pecora back then.

    November 6, 2013 1 Photo

  • mastovich, mike MIKE MASTOVICH | Berlin's Fochtman rushing into lead

    Braden Fochtman always seems to be in a rush on the football field.
    How else do you explain his area-best 1,042 rushing yards through five weeks of the scholastic season?
    But the Berlin Brothersvalley sophomore back actually has been a much more patient runner this season, and that’s made a significant difference to the undefeated Mountaineers’ success.

    October 3, 2013 1 Photo

  • mastovich, mike color.JPG MIKE MASTOVICH| Experienced players valuable for Meyersdale

    Gavin Berkley will make his 34th career start when undefeated Meyersdale hosts once-beaten Portage on Friday night.
    The Red Raiders senior two-way standout has experienced plenty of highs and lows during the past three-plus seasons.

    September 19, 2013 1 Photo

  • mastovich, mike MIKE MASTOVICH| Rule waiver soothes concerns

    Dean Albany felt a sense of baseball relief late Wednesday night.
    For days, even weeks, the Youse’s Maryland Orioles of Baltimore GM had pondered the possibility of life without the the AAABA Tournament this summer and perhaps beyond.

    July 24, 2013 1 Photo

  • mastovich, mike.JPG MIKE MASTOVICH| Hot times for two AAABA League teams

    Two AAABA League franchises have heated up as the temperatures soared this month.
    The Berkley Hills Renegades beat First Commonwealth 11-1 on Wednesday, the defending champs’ seventh consecutive victory.
    Manager Larry McCabe’s team has won 11 of its past 12 games and now has a 22-12 record, good for second place and 31⁄2 games behind league-leading Delweld.

    July 17, 2013 1 Photo

  • mastovich, mike MIKE MASTOVICH| Shirley lifting Renegades

    Jason Shirley provides the Berkley Hills Renegades with offensive punch and speed on the base paths, a combination that will be important if the defending champions are to challenge for a spot atop the AAABA League standings.
    Shirley is batting a league-high .458 (22-for-48) through 22 games. The Youngstown State University product also has eight stolen bases in nine attempts.

    July 10, 2013 1 Photo

  • mastovich, mike MIKE MASTOVICH | Mazey scholarship continues legacy

    Forrest Mazey was a fixture at Point Stadium and baseball diamonds throughout the region.

    July 3, 2013 1 Photo


Do you think pet obituaries should be included with death notices?

Yes, my pet is considered a member of the family.
No, pet obituaries are inappropriate.
Pet obituaries should be placed on a different page in the newspaper.
     View Results
Order Photos

Photo Slideshow

House Ads