Apr. 20—California High School senior Payton Conte knows the game of baseball. His father Mike is in his 25th season as head coach at Cal (Pa.).
However knowing the game and excelling at it are two different things.
Check off both boxes for Payton.
“His obvious strengths are his overall natural physical baseball talents,” California coach Lou Pasquale said. “What will set him apart is the fact that he continues to work on those skills, and he has been more vocal and leads by example. He has a desire to be the best he can, and that sets a pretty good example for the other players. He works on all aspects, and he’s one of the most mentally strong players I’ve ever had.”
This past week, Conte was outstanding in helping the Trojans to three victories.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, California swept Bentworth in a pair of Section 1-2A games by a combined score of 30-4.
Conte was a combined 5 for 6 with a double and a home run in the two games.
“Payton having success is no accident,” Pasquale said. “He’s a gifted player and he works hard all the time. Patience at the plate is huge and hitting with runners on was a very big key for when Payton came to bat, knowing how to look for a pitch in one spot during an at-bat and driving it by using his talents.”
On Thursday in a nonsection game, California picked up its most impressive win of the season, handing Class 4A power Belle Vernon its first loss of the season, 8-7.
Conte had three more hits in the victory.
“He is one of the top players in the WPIAL in my opinion,” Pasquale said. “What stood out is that no matter the classification of our opponent, he can, and does, play at a high level.”
In the Tuesday victory over Bentworth, Conte was the winning pitcher, pitching five innings, allowing no runs on one hit with 11 strikeouts.
“Along with our pitching coach, Neil Forsythe, Payton made an adjustment in his mechanics and was throwing smoother than he has,” Pasquale said. “It sounds a bit redundant at times, but throwing strikes and staying ahead of hitters is paramount. When he does that, he’ll be very hard to beat.”
In 2019, California won the WPIAL Class A championship by beating Union in the title game. While only a sophomore, Conte played a big role in the Trojans fifth district title run.
Moving up to 2A, California hopes to continue that successful tradition in a tough and deep classification.
“We have obviously played better since losing our first two section games via the 10-run rule,” Pasquale said. “That was quite embarrassing. We were not mentally strong and we played terrible defense. After four straight wins, we feel a lot better about ourselves.
“We also didn’t hide from competition. Our nonsection schedule is tough. We play five 3A teams and three 4A teams to help us keep working and playing under a bit of pressure. If all physical things are equal, I’d like to take my chances and be that mentally tougher team who can handle game adversity when it hits.”
2021 Trib HSSN Baseball Players of the Week
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