(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."