The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Sports

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.

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Sports
  • Pirates Brawl 0420 Brewers top Pirates in game highlighted by dustup

    Ryan Braun homered in the ninth inning to tie it, then Khris Davis hit a home run in the 14th that put Milwaukee ahead for good.
    Yet those were hardly the big blows that attracted all the attention Sunday in the Brewers’ 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Football team ends boycott of embattled coach

    Minnesota State University-Mankato’s football team has ended its boycott of reinstated head coach Todd Hoffner, who successfully fought child pornography charges and other misconduct accusations that removed him from the job for 20 months.
    Hoffner said he assured the players, who refused to take the practice field Wednesday, that interim coach Aaron Keen, who led the team in Hoffner’s absence, will continue in a major role with the team.

    April 20, 2014

  • Penguins 0420a Game 3 pivotal for both teams

    Not so long ago, the Columbus Blue Jackets were the worst team in the NHL.
    Now they’re heading home for tonight’s Game 3 of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series with the star-studded Pittsburgh Penguins, hoping to make even more history.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Penguins 0419 Blue Jackets outlast Pens in double-OT

    Matt Calvert banged home a rebound 1:10 into the second overtime and the Columbus Blue Jackets earned the first playoff victory in franchise history with a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.
    Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury stuffed the initial shot by Cam Atkinson but Calvert stood all alone at the left post and wristed a shot into the open net to even the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at one game each.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates 0419 Brewers rally to clip Pirates

    Ryan Braun hit two homers, including a two-run shot with two outs in the ninth inning that sent the Milwaukee Brewers over the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-7 Saturday night.
    Braun has five home runs this season after being suspended for the last 65 games of 2013 following Major League Baseball’s investigation into the Biogenesis drug scandal.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Area runners gearing for Boston Marathon

    The time was 12:15 p.m. It was Monday April 19, 1897.  Tom Burke had drawn a line across the dirt road with his foot. Eighteen men gathered near Metcalf’s Mill in Ashland, Massachusetts.

    April 19, 2014

  • SRU vs UPJ baseball0418 1 UPJ takes one, drops second

    John Fees’ spring baseball season accurately mirrors that of his Pitt-Johnstown team.
    Fees started slow, losing his first four decisions, but has rebounded nicely in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West Division.

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Pirates 0418 Brewers ward off late Pirates rally bid

    Kyle Lohse pitched effectively into the seventh inning, Carlos Gomez homered and the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-3 Friday night.
    Lohse (3-1) improved to 11-2 in his career against the Pirates, allowing one earned run in a win against them for the second time in six days.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Drama lacking sans Tiger

    If professional golf saw its future at Augusta National last weekend, the sight had to be worse than choking on a 5-foot putt.
    The course was there in all its splendor.

    April 18, 2014

  • Penguins 0418 Penguins are wary of spunky Blue Jackets

    Sidney Crosby is used to the attention. It comes with the territory when you’re the best hockey player in the world.
    Still, the Pittsburgh Penguins star knows the spotlight becomes more acute in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo