Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Lions Roar to Section Title South Fayette Catches Fire after So-So Start

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Lions Roar to Section Title South Fayette Catches Fire after So-So Start

Article excerpt

South Fayette's James Barton comes from a unique background when it comes to the local high school baseball coaching fraternity.

Barton is a 1983 graduate of Aliquippa High School, a school which has a deep, successful history in football, basketball and track, but is annually an afterthought in the world of WPIAL baseball. Barton said he played on a team that was the "last year Aliquippa was good at baseball."

His adopted school has quickly gotten good at baseball every season.

South Fayette (13-6) will participate in the WPIAL playoffs for the fifth season in a row, all of which coming with Barton at that helm. He took over a less-than-stellar program in 2008.

The Lions were outright Class AA Section 1 champions this year after finishing with a 12-2 record, making it the third time in four seasons they have claimed at least a share of the section title. They have a non-section game remaining to be played today at Upper St. Clair.

"From day one I told them you can't be a champion unless you think like a champion," Barton said.

According to Barton, this year's team isn't his most talented, but it might be the most seasoned. Most of the starters from last year's team returned, and that experience has paid off. The Lions will likely be seeded fairly high when the playoff pairings are announced, and will be favored to advance past the first round for the first time since making it to the WPIAL semifinals and PIAA final in 2009.

"This team believed since the start, and that's because we have built up a tradition of being a very good baseball team," Barton said.

Without what he said was a "shutdown pitcher," Barton said the Lions will lean on a potent offense to try to carry them deep into the postseason.

"We're going to have to average at least six or seven runs a game to have a chance to win and stay in the playoffs," added Barton.

The Lions don't have a ton of power -- Barton said they've hit only three home runs all season -- but they make a lot of contact and have the ability to score runs in bunches. …

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