by Scott Kindberg
Baseball History Repeats Itself For LaDuca
For the second time in as many years, the Pine Valley baseball coach guided the Panthers to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class D tournament. To put that into perspective, the Frewsburg Bears (1995 and 1996) and the Dunkirk Marauders (1988 and 1989) are the only Chautauqua County baseball teams to advance to the states in back-to-back seasons. And while the Panthers failed to come home with a state title on either occasion, their play just to get there demonstrated just how far the program has come under LaDuca’s leadership.
While normally fielding solid teams during his 11-year tenure, LaDuca had never advanced past the Section 6 finals until last year, when the Panthers made it to the state semifinals before losing to Blind Brook, 23-1.
But this year, armed with seven returning starters, they defeated Brocton in the sectional title game and edged Prattsburg in the Far West Regional; to make a return trip to Utica-Little Falls.
“They’re young, but they are focused this year,” LaDuca said. “They wanted it bad. We really worked hard this year.”
Ultimately, Pine Valley lost in the state semi-finals to Fabius-Pompey, 14-2, but that didn’t diminish the team’s accomplishments this spring.
In Fact, under LaDuca’s leadership, Pine Valley has compiled an impressive 132-65 record in the last 11 seasons, including the consecutive state berths the past two springs.
“We tried for so many years to win the section and all of a sudden we win it once and then we go back-to-back,” LaDuca said after the sectional championship victory. “Last year was my 10th year coaching when we finally won (the section). I’m glad I didn’t have to wait another 10 years.”
LaDuca didn’t have to wait long for another honor either. For the second consecutive year, he’s The Post-Journal’s baseball Coach of the Year.