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Tyrone baseball team preps for opening round against Rockets

There was only one factor Tyrone manager Tom Coleman weighed when deciding to enter his sub-.500 club in the District 6-AA playoffs.
It wasn’t statistics and it obviously wasn’t won-loss record. Instead, what Coleman was looking for was consistency, something the Eagles battled to attain over an up and down campaign marred by games postponed for rain, cold, and wet fields, preventing Tyrone from developing any kind of rhythm until the last two weeks of the season.
And while in those games – which featured match ups with powers like Philipsburg-Osceola and Mount Union – the Eagles managed only a 3-3 split, their performance was steady and solid, in stark contrast to their production early on.
“Over our last several games, we played at a consistent level that I was looking for from this group,” said Coleman. “It was not just winning two of our last three, it was how we played together. From that, I had a good feeling to enter the playoffs.”
Now, the question is whether Tyrone can maintain that form despite a weeklong layoff since defeating Bellwood-Antis 14-7 in last Wednesday’s regular season finale. The Eagles will find out today when they travel to Three Springs to face Southern Huntingdon in the first round of the 2007 playoffs.
“Anything goes in the postseason,” said Coleman. “I believe we can challenge some teams if everything comes together. We are starting to play more consistently and our last win is something I hope our kids can build momentum and confidence from.”
One player who exuded confidence over the final fortnight of the season was sophomore Johnny Shaffer, who in the last seven games went 12-for-20 with four home runs and 16 RBI. After an 0-for-8 start, he batted .395 and drove in 21 runs, and his performance in the three-hole set the table for most of what the Eagles were able to do offensively. That was important, considering the amount of offensive sputtering Tyrone went through this season.
Despite returning most of its lineup from a team that a year ago hit a collective .324, it took most of the season for the Eagles to find any kind of groove at the plate. Some players finished strong enough to post impressive numbers – Tyler Gillmen hit .358, Tyler Golden batted .370, Justin Schopp finished .421 and Matt Brooks hit .320.
But inside the numbers were figures not so remarkable, like the 14 straight scoreless innings the Eagles posted over three games in mid-April, or the four games around the same time when Tyrone couldn’t do better than six hits in a single game.
The Eagles’ inconsistent hitting was one of the key factors in two slumps that saw them lose at least three straight games. The other was defense. Tyrone committed 35 errors and had seven games with at least three. In a 6-5 loss to Bishop Guilfoyle on April 24, the Eagles had a season-high five.
But that hasn’t changed the way Coleman feels about his team, which he said in March had the talent and desire to compete for a District title.
“We have a great bunch of seniors that are competitive and they’re excited to extend their season,” Coleman said. “I can see our second wind coming for the first round. Win or lose, they’ll play the game to the end and leave it all on the field.”
One thing that hasn’t changed for Tyrone is a solid three-man pitching rotation that will have to be strong for the Eagles to win in the playoffs. Golden led the team in innings and finished with a 2-1 record and 3.68 ERA. He’ll get the start against the Rockets.
Jamie Levinson went 2-0 with one save while notching a pair of complete game victories and posting a team-best 2.23 ERA, while Tyler Gillmen finished 1-2 with a save and a 4.84 ERA.
The trio gives Tyrone options, both within the game – if a starter needs relief – and for the long haul.
“Pitching dictates how far you can go,” Coleman said. “You still have to hit and field and catch some breaks, but high school baseball will always come down to having a pitcher that can shut a team down.”
In Golden and Levinson, at least, Tyrone has two. The question for them and all of the Eagles will be their ability to match their peak performances and maintain the steady play Coleman saw late in the year.