Bogosian let Haverford set a winning agenda

HAVERFORD — With a clipboard and what he calls his thunder whistle in hand, Paul Bogosian begins each practice with teaching moments.

On the eve of the District One Class AAAA playoffs, the lesson du jour at Friday’s practice is simple, fundamental: Rounding first base aggressively in anticipation of outfield bobbles.

After four decades coaching baseball, the head man at Haverford knows how to tailor his message toward each group of players that matriculates through his program.

For this year’s team, which came within a run of a share of the Central League title, the input has been just as simple.

“He gave us, the captains and the seniors, a lot of freedom to lead the way we wanted to,’ senior captain Kevin Maloney said. “We contribute. It’s not just with some coaches where, ‘˜it’s my way, this is the way it’s going to be.’ We have a lot of freedom to do what we wanted.’

That dynamic has the Fords in the postseason for the first time in five years, earning the No. 20 seed and a trip to No. 13 Hatboro-Horsham in Monday’s opening round.

Bogosian is no stranger to the postseason, having made the field nine times in the last 15 years. Eight of those instances, though, came in the first decade of the 2000s, and it’s been a long wait for playoff squad No. 9.

It took time to convince the veteran coach that this would be the group. Over the summer, he knew he had some talented players and promising young prospects maybe a year or two away from contributing on the varsity level. But through the winter, the group continued to improve, giving Bogosian hope that the playoff drought would end.

“Each day it got better and better where I turned to the coaches and I said, ‘˜I don’t know how we’re going to do, but we sure look good right now,” he said. The recipe was simple, and involved Bogosian letting what was already in place flourish. None of the Fords were satisfied with the four wins posted in 2014. The determined senior class dreaded a repeat of that marring their final seasons.

So the work started right from the end of the season: Workouts two to three days a week throughout the summer, sessions in the new outdoor batting cages through the fall and the winter, bonding exercises that brought a team heavy in veteran leadership and youthful talent together.

The spark for that was wholly organic.

“Four wins, it’s nothing to be happy about,’ said Maloney, who Bogosian credits as the driving force behind the turnaround. “… It wasn’t like we were getting 10 guys. We were getting the whole squad out here, doing intrasquad stuff all through the summer and all through the fall. As you start to spend more time, you realize with guys that close you have the ability to do something special.’

That’s allowed Bogosian to be more hands-off with the day-to-day activities. He’s handed the team the keys to script weekend practices. He knows that whether it’s the pitchers doing side work in the bullpen or hitters taking rounds in the cage, the group will do its work without having to be constantly supervised and instructed.

“He’s been a good coach for years and it’s been tough for him the last few years not having as solid a team as we have now,’ Leonard said. “He lets us do our thing because he knows we’re going to make the right decisions.’

The group’s collective focus has meant that Bogosian’s coaching has had the intended effect, garnering a response it hasn’t in years. It’s anchored by talent, for sure: From sophomore catcher Drew Fowler to speedy outfielder Tom Leonard to staff ace Scott McKenna, the Fords have hit .338 as a team this season, scoring over 70 more runs than they’ve allowed.

But the overarching tenacity of the group has put that into practice.

“The motto was that we’re making the playoffs this year,’ Maloney said. “It’s what we’re going to do. It’s not a maybe. This is the way it’s going to be. … We want to get to states, we want to make something happen. We know we’ve got the guys to do; we’ve just got to put the work in.’

Half of that promise has been fulfilled, and the next step starts Monday.

In other District One Class AAAA games:

No. 19 Spring-Ford at No. 14 Marple Newtown

The Tigers have turned it on down the stretch with a young team coming together rapidly, anchored by the pitching of Grant Wallace and Ricky Collings. It’s likely Wallace, who has six wins this season, will get the ball in the playoff opener.

They’ll face a daunting challenge against the Pac-10 tournament champs, who earned that honor by topping the District’s No. 5 seed Boyertown, then No. 11 Owen J. Roberts despite entering the Pac-10 tourney in fourth place in the league. The Rams seem to be peaking at the right time, and with arms like Cameron Simmons, Bret Clarke and Alex Gouveia to toss at opponents, they could make some noise.

No. 17 W.C. East at No. 16 Penncrest

Beset by injuries, Penncrest has struggled down the stretch after a flying start to the season, and those struggles have translated into inconsistency in the lineup. That puts a premium on their two star pitchers, Rob Brown and Matt Briner, to guide them through the first round. It’s likely that the big lefty Brown will get the ball, charged with taking his team into a meeting with top-seeded Interboro.

Led by Shane Springer’s bat and the arm of David Conklin, the Vikings finished third in the Ches-Mont National Division.

No. 24 Garnet Valley at No. 9 Central Bucks East

It’s been a remarkable turnaround from the Jaguars, who started 2-6 to finish with 10 wins in the Central League and book an unlikely playoff spot. The lineup has rebounded around its two Division I-bound seniors, outfielder Ben Faso and catcher Jeff Shanfeldt, leading the league’s most explosive attack. Just as instrumental has been the emergence of Mike Bechtold as a shutdown ace, and there’s little doubt that he’ll get the ball Monday.

The Garnet lineup will have to do what no team has done this season: Get to Michael Broderick. The Patriots’ ace is 6-0 with an ERA under 1 this season. The lineup backing him is led by David Yanni, who leads the Patriots in most offensive qualities.

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