Trib HSSN Baseball Team of the Week May 2-7: Mount Lebanon
Sunday, May 8, 2022 | 8:20 p.m.
After the 2020 season was halted, the Mount Lebanon baseball team returned last spring with a young squad that finished 11-8 and lost to Butler in the district quarterfinals.
With several key players returning, the Blue Devils didn’t exactly overwhelm a host of early sectionless opponents, losing four games in a row as March turned into April.
“It was more about playing games early to figure out what we have,” Mt. Lebanon coach Patt McCloskey said. “While losing four games in a row is tough, I honestly don’t care about our off-section record as we always play a ton of tough games early to figure out what we have got. I couldn’t be more proud of how we reacted after losing four games in four days.
Since then, the Blue Devils have gone 10-3. Ending their Section schedule with two more wins last week, Mt. Lebanon finished 9-1 and won the Section title 2-6A by three games.
Last week started with a Monday night game at the Boyce-Mayview complex against rival Upper St. Clair.
The Blue Devils put the game away early with four runs in the second inning and two more in the third en route to a 7-0 shutout.
“Monday night’s win comes down to three things,” McCloskey said. “First, Jack Smith had to throw a lot of pitches, but he came out of the first inning without giving up a run. Eddie Albert was really, really good, and we didn’t want to be left behind by him. We came out in the second set and kept swinging the sticks well and managed to get a few runs, which took the pressure off. The third thing was second baseman AJ Stettler made a great play in the fifth inning that will never show up in the box score, but his play kept USC from potentially having a big inning and start a comeback.
Eight Mt. Lebanon players had hits and Smith allowed three hits and struck out nine in five innings for the win.
The next day at home, the pitchers again won for the Blue Devils in a 2-0 shutout.
“Starting pitcher Derrick Shields was really on,” McCloskey said. “We didn’t give him a lot of offensive support, but he was very lively and took us into the seventh inning. We scored a few points late in the first which again took the pressure off us.
Shields, a freshman, allowed just two hits in 6 1/3 innings with nine strikeouts. Junior Tanner Donati led the attack by seven hits for Mount Lebanon with a pair of singles.
“We had a lot of input from so many players,” McCloskey said. “Tanner Donati was outstanding at first, and Jack Smith was really solid at third while playing great defense at third base. Matt Delvaux suffered a serious hamstring injury at shortstop and gutted it like a real player and had some huge hits. He’s healthy now, and that’s been a big help.
Still, it was throwing that led the Blue Devils to a sectional championship, which could lead to more material down the road.
“Pitching-wise, Derrick Shields delivered every start. Jack Smith came in and pitched well out of the bullpen against Hempfield and Norwin, then was a great start against Baldwin and USC. Evan Rossi, Matt Delvaux and Owen Mitchell were also huge off-pen contributors. The big thing for our pitchers was our very low walk rate, especially compared to the number of strikeouts they had.
Junior Tyler Smith, an Auburn rookie, didn’t pitch and was the Blue Devils’ designated hitter all season.
Mt. Liban will close out the regular season with a few sectionless games this week before earning a high seed in the upcoming WPIAL playoffs.
While there are only nine and possibly 10 teams that will make it into Class 6A baseball, McCloskey believes what the tournament lacks in size it makes up for in quality.
“It’s the deepest field ever. We played four of the five northern teams that made the playoffs, they were all really good teams. We haven’t played Central, but we know they’re pretty good too. It’s the highest parity 6A has ever had, and either team can win. There is no advantage to just any seeding. We know we’re up against a championship-caliber team in the first round of the playoffs.
“From our section, all the games were really close. We finished 9-1, but there were no easy games. Anyone in our section is capable of winning it. 6A has been so much fun this year because the two sections are so balanced, and when you look at the records, you see everyone beat everyone. It’s going to be a really exciting playoff, as all nine teams can legitimately win it.
2022 Trib HSSN Baseball Teams of the Week
Week 4 — Shenango Wildcats
Week 3 — Hopewell Vikings
Week 2 — Foals from the Chartiers Valley
Week 1 — Beaver Bobcats