Sunday, May 31, 2009

Handling pressure in the clutch

(Blogger's note: The writer attempted to see how many sports cliche's he could fit into the title.)

The American Heritage Desk Dictionary defines "in the clutch" as in a tense or critical situation. "Pressure" is defined as urgent claim or demand.

As for the 2008 Trinity High School baseball team, well, the Hillers have certainly been clutch and they've definitely handled pressure throughout the spring.

And both characteristics to Trinity's third consecutive appearance in the PIAA Class AAA playoffs. The Hillers face District 10 champion Grove City today, 6 p.m. at Slippery Rock University.

After advancing to the 2008 WPIAL Class AAA title game and the PIAA semifinals, expectations were heavy on these Hillers. With the top three pitchers - Alex Frey (pictured), Tyler Schrader and Evan Bukowski - back as well as key players in Dustin Norris, Sean McKnight, Buck Gnagey, Joe Havrilak and Nate Catalado who spurred last year's run, Trinity certainly possessed the talent to put together another strong season.

For some Hillers' fans, however, nothing short of an undefeated season and a state championship were acceptable. A few went as far to blog such statements here on the Varsity Letters.

Talk about pressure.

Then again, Trinity's players and coaches put pressure on themselves. Before the first practice, the Hillers goal was to win a title.

"Coach Levi (Bristor) is a state championship guy," Frey said after he helped Trinity rally for a thrilling 4-2 victory over Hopewell in the WPIAL Class AAA third-place game. "Every one wants the WPIAL but states is what is on our minds."

Hopewell, the top seed in the district playoffs, led 2-0 through 4 1/3 innings of the third-place game. That's how far the game went Thursday before rain's forced a postponement. The contest, played at Washington & Jefferson College's Ross Memorial Park, was picked up Friday and, heading into the bottom of the sixth, Trinity still trailed, 2-0.

That's when Frey, McKnight, Havrilak, Norris, Bukowski and Gnagey strung together key at-bats and scored four runs to take the lead and clinch a berth in the state tournament.

"We've always been good under pressure," said Bukowski, whose two-run single tied the game.

That's a big reason why Trinity is in the state tournament for a third straight year, a school record, in a sport when so many factors can go against a team on any given day. Whether the Hillers win an elusive PIAA title or not, there's little denying this has been the best era of Trinity baseball since the early 1940s.

"The key is they believe," Bristor said Sunday. "We work on so many things in practice and there's consequences if they don't do things properly. They're used to the pressure."


Anonymous said...

Great Job Hillers and the coaching staff. Keep your heads held high!!!!

Anonymous said...

It's a shame to have the most talent in AAA in the state and not get a chance to play for the championship in Altoona. Oh well.

Anonymous said...

It happens. Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good. The Trinity team had a successful season. Even though they fell short of their goal, they were more successful than any other Washington County team this year. They gave the school and Trinity Community something to get excited about, just like Wash High's basketball team did this past season.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Hillers! Coach Bristor and staff have done another great job this season. They have really elevated the level of Hiller baseball since taking over!

Special congrats to the Seniors, you've accomplished more in your 3 years than any other class in the history of Trinity High School. You should be very proud.

mike_kovak said...

It's sad to say this, but, it's nice to see the bloggers stay positive for a change.

Anonymous said...

As a player on the trinity team this year it was a wonderful ride that i will never ever forget, all the parents,fans,coaches and of course my teammates were very special this year and i've become such a better ballplayer and person thanks to my coaches. I'll never forget these past 3 years as long as i play baseball and i'm very glad to be apart of building such a rich tradtion at trintity for hopefully years to come. Thanks again for all the support from everyone and Go Hillers!

Anonymous said...

Now that the season is over, where will Fry, Schraeder, and Buckowski be attending college?

Anonymous said...

Schradar is going to La Roach and I think Buckowski is going to Penn state beharnd. Fry will go to a DI

Anonymous said...

itd be interesting to see how well those three do in college... bukowski and schrader will square off against each otherr in the same conference.. i think eventually they could all be playing D-1 baseball .. they all have special talent..

Anonymous said...

This article is very similar to the Wash High basketball one you did in the winter, I'd really like to see this story end up in the observer because this a truly great story about a great bunch of kids who have been together since they were in little league.