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McKeesport, EA Baseball Teams Savor Success

Tigers, Wildcats advance for first time in more than 20 years

By Kristen Keleschenyi
The Tube City Almanac
May 14, 2022
Posted in: McKeesport and Region News, North Versailles Twp. News, Sports

McKeesport Tigers varsity baseball players include, first row, Brady Boyle, Colin Scharritter, Duston Strom, Brayden Kovach, Jason Peterson and Ryan Tucker, and second row, Jaden Smith, Jake Miller, Logan Shiffler, Noah Marcic, Austin Riggs, Alex Reigh and Ricky Heyz. (Submitted photo)

For fans disappointed in the Pittsburgh Pirates, high school baseball is an exciting alternative in the Mon-Yough area.

For the first time in 23 years, East Allegheny High School’s Wildcats are section champs (WPIAL Division 3A) as they advance to the playoffs and for the first time in 21 years, McKeesport Area High School’s Tigers (WPIAL Division 5A) have earned a playoff spot in their conference.

But why has it been so long since these teams have had something big to celebrate? According to Ron Bishop, head coach of McKeesport’s varsity team for the past nine years, it takes a long time to create a competitive team. Sometimes his players are coming together, for the first time, at the high school level.

“A lot of the teams that have success in high school baseball have tremendous feeder programs and these kids are playing together from the time they are five, six years old all the way until they get to high school and have that continuity being a team,” Bishop says.

“At McKeesport, we basically have three different youth associations to where these kids really aren't playing together on the same team until they get to high school so they are kind of behind the eight ball to start.”

Travel ball has also been a factor with these high school teams. Most of the players going up against McKeesport — kids from Franklin Regional, Latrobe and Penn Trafford — are on teams that play all year round.  Bishop has three players that are able to participate on those kinds of teams.

But right now, Bishop’s team has elements that are finally coming together. Kids who have played alongside each other in McKeesport youth leagues are now bringing their familiarity and experience to the diamond. Senior shortstop and pitcher Duston Strom has had the opportunity to play in travel leagues, but has also known many of his teammates from McKeesport youth ball.

He says the team got off to a rough start but rebounded after crucial wins against Kiski and Penn Trafford. “I think starting off we were 0-4 or 0-5 in the section and then we came back and won two in a row,” Strom says. “Just being in that playoff contention really shaped us.”

Members of the East Allegheny Wildcats Varsity Baseball Team include, first row, Coach Michael Cahill, Michael Cahill, Joe Connors, Tommy Kearns, Nate Waleko, Nate Holmes, Chance Odoski, Coach Dan Gaydos and Coach Ryan Holland, and second row, Ryan Kirk, Stevie Yusko, Ryan Rupert, Traynor Janosko, Jax Jurisic, Jacob Cochran and Chase Jones. (Submitted photo)

Familiarity has also been a theme with EA’s baseball team which is made up of mostly sophomores and their former T-ball coach.

Michael Cahill has been EA’s head coach since 2020, but in a way started preparing these kids 10 years prior.  “I have coached in each of the age groups as they have moved up through the EAAA (East Allegheny Athletic Association) organization. When the opportunity became available to coach the varsity team, it was a dream come true for me,” Cahill says.

It has only been three years since the EA baseball team was celebrating the little things — like finally winning one game. Melodi Janosko’s middle son, Kendall, was a senior that year and she recalls the team being so excited it was as if they had made the playoffs. But now her youngest son, Traynor, is part of the core of sophomores propelling the team to new heights.

“When you have a program that hasn't made the playoffs in 23 years it's hard to have confidence that you can be successful," says Janosko. "I think this group of kids, starting with last year, got a little taste of feeling like it was reachable that they could perhaps go a little further than the teams in the recent past have gone.”

As the playoff games begin next week, both teams are working hard to prepare.

McKeesport catcher and outfielder Jason Peterson says whatever happens, “it's a huge accomplishment and we’re taking in the moment. It feels amazing because it’s something that hasn’t been done in so long in our school’s history.”

Kristen Keleschenyi is a freelance writer in North Versailles Twp. and one of the hosts of the Kristen & Amber Show on Tube City Online Radio at 5 p.m. Saturdays, 9 p.m. Mondays and 4 p.m. Thursdays. She may be reached at kbishop25@hotmail.com.

Originally published May 14, 2022.

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