Legendary Colella Lives on through Hopewell's Success

By White, Mike | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), April 15, 2012 | Go to article overview

Legendary Colella Lives on through Hopewell's Success


White, Mike, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


It was the season opener for the Hopewell High School baseball team. Joe Rubino wasn't about to step into Joe Colella's shoes, but Rubino was stepping into Colella's box -- and it made Rubino a little uneasy.

For the first time in almost 50 years, Colella wouldn't be standing in the third-base coach's box for a Hopewell game. The legendary coach died of a heart attack in September. He had been the Vikings' coach for 48 years and had won 655 games.

"As I was getting dressed for that game and heading down to the field, that's when it sort of really hit me," Rubino said. "I was going to be in that third-base box and not him. I wasn't offering suggestions any more. I was making the decisions. That first game is when it sort of really hit me that things were quite a bit different."

It sure does seem strange that WPIAL baseball no longer has Joe Colella. But one thing hasn't changed at Hopewell. From one Joe to the next, the Vikings are still winning with regularity.

Hopewell has a 9-1 record heading into a Monday showdown with undefeated Blackhawk.

"With the success he had, we did keep a lot of his philosophies," Rubino said. "But I had some of my own ideas, too, and some of my assistants had ideas. We've tweaked a few things, but basically we're taking the approach that if it's not broke, don't try to fix it."

Colella won three WPIAL titles, one PIAA title and numerous section titles.

"We won a game earlier this year, 1-0, against Riverside," said Rubino, 36, who teaches ninth-grade biology at Hopewell. "The only run scored on a squeeze bunt. He definitely would've smiled at that one. We're still trying to play fundamental baseball, just like he did."

Junior Stefan Mrkonja has played a huge role in the Vikings' success, going 4-0 as a pitcher and batting .500. Junior shortstop Ryan Cox also is having a big year.

"Even though we had a lot of returning starters, we had a little apprehension because a lot of the returning starters were only juniors," Rubino said. "We knew the hitting would be up and down, but minus one game against Beaver that we lost, the things that have been there all year are pitching and defense."

A DAN-DY FIELD

Riverside High School recently named its baseball field after longtime coach Dan Oliastro, one of the winningest coaches in WPIAL history.

Oliastro is in his 44th season as the Panthers' coach and is the only coach in WPIAL history to win three PIAA titles. His third came last season.

The winningest coach in WPIAL history is believed to be Hopewell's Colella, while Oliastro is now second with 522. …

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