The Post-Journal

LaDuca Pushes Right Buttons In Panthers' Section 6 Title Campaign

By his own admission, Pine Valley baseball coach Charlie LaDuca wasn’t into baseball in the spring of 2003.

At least not to the degree he had been accustomed. Fact is, the death of his father weighed heavily on him.

“I went through the motions,” he said. “The kids probably knew it.”

But the 2004 season – his 16th at the South Dayton high school – was an entirely different story.

Fact is, it turned out to be one of the best in school history as the Panthers took eventual state champion Northstar to extra innings before losing by a run in the Class D Far West Regional.

“My team worked so hard,” LaDuca said. “They earned a chance to get (to the state tournament), but we also talked all year that there are no guarantees.”

Nevertheless, the Panthers, led by Ryan Sweda, nearly earned a trip to Binghamton, thanks to a late-season run that had them playing their best baseball of the year.

“What really stands out was Lucas Woyton’s pitching job against Ellicottville (late in the spring season). If you lose and get blown out, the morale is shattered and maybe they start thinking they can’t beat them,” LaDuca said. “My goal all year long was to prove to them that they were not only a good team, but the best team. When they dominated Ellicottville, led by Lucas’ pitching performance, I believe that was the turning point of the season. The kids were just sky-high after that. We knew we could go as far as we could.”

Victories followed against Brocton, Clymer and Ellicottville yet again, this time, 5-1, in the Section 6 Class d championship game at Diethrick Park.

“When I say successful, it’s because of the work ethic and the way the kids came together as a team and the lessons they learned. It was absolutely one of my most satisfying seasons.”

LaDuca will remember this spring for another reason, too. It was the season he was selected as The Post-Journal’s baseball Coach of the Year.

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