Bethel Park baseball, softball teams strive to reach programs’ high standards

Saturday, May 21, 2022 | 2:30 PM

The Bethel Park baseball team had a tough act to follow.

The Black Hawks entered 2022 season as the reigning PIAA Class 5A champions who also finished as the WPIAL runners-up.

Bethel Park won the Section 4-5A title with a 10-0 record in 2021 and racked up a 22-4 overall record.

However, many of the players on last year’s club returned in 2022.

Bethel Park secured a WPIAL playoff berth by going 8-2 in the section, good for second place behind Peters Township (9-1), and 14-3 in the regular season.

The Black Hawks strung together two seven-game winning streaks this season.

“My expectations of this team at the beginning of the season were for this group to continue to follow the blueprint of our successful team from last year,” coach Pat Zehnder said. “Practicing and playing the right way, supporting each other through the thick and thin of a baseball game and season and high quality of work put in every day to match the high-quality goals we have set in place.

“We are fortunate to have a lot of guys back from last year’s team, and they did a great job showing the way with their work ethic, attitude and leadership. I am so proud and fortunate to work with a group like this that enjoys practicing and playing together.”

The Black Hawks’ regular starting lineup this spring involved the following 11 players: Ben Hudson (LF), David Kessler (SS), Cody Geddes (3B), Ray Altmeyer (DH/OF), John Chalus (C), Bo Conrad (2B), Dylan Schmude (CF), Evan Holewinski (P/1B), Nathan Vargo (P/1B), Jason Nuttridge (RF) and Ryan Petras (INF/OF).

Hudson, Kessler, Geddes, Conrad and Schmude are seniors; Altmeyer, Chalus, Holewinski, Vargo and Nuttridge are juniors. Petras is a top freshman.

Geddes and Kessler provided an outstanding one-two punch offensively this season. Geddes hit .415 batting average with a .475 on-base percentage. He accounted for a team-leading 22 hits in 53 at-bats with seven doubles, two triples, three home runs, 15 RBIs, 18 runs and a .792 slugging percentage.

Kessler batted .333 with a .438 on-base percentage. In 64 plate appearances, he had 18 hits, was issued 10 walks and struck out only once. He led the team in doubles (7), triples (2), home runs (5), RBIs (21), runs (19) stolen bases (9) and slugging percentage (.815).

Other .300 hitters on the team were Conrad (.383), Schmude (.367), Altmeyer (.347), Chalus (.346) and Hudson (.319).

“Coby Goelz and Lucas Lybarger also provided big hits off the bench,” Zehnder said.

The pitching staff was led by Holewinski, who posted a 6-0 record and 1.09 ERA. He allowed only five earned runs and 16 hits in 32 innings and fanned 32 batters.

Holewinski, who hit .524 in 21 at-bats, was complemented on the mound by Vargo, freshman Ryan Walsh, juniors Sebastian Schein, Nick Gasper and Evan Lejeune, senior Will Sokira and Geddes.

“I am proud of the hard work, togetherness, toughness and talent this group showed during the regular season,” Zehnder said. “We were all aware that we had a target on our back and would get everyone’s best shot.

“The guys earned their 14-3 record with a high level of work ethic in practice and high level of competitiveness and tenacity during games.”

Sophomores spark softball squad

Bethel Park opened the 2022 softball season as the defending WPIAL Class 6A champion, but the Black Hawks lost eight talented seniors to graduation, making this year’s team a work in progress from day one.

Bethel Park wrapped up the regular season with a 9-8 record and in second place in Section 1-6A with a 6-2 record.

“I feel as though we have developed throughout the season,” veteran coach Heather Semplice-Scott said. “As the year went on, we grew as team. We learned to work together and stay positive and confident with each other. We have learned you have to be ready from the first pitch to the last out. Playing a strong nonsection schedule really helped us prepare for the playoffs.”

Nonsection opponents (and their final regular-season record) included Shaler (15-3), Penn-Trafford (15-2), North Allegheny (10-9), Chartiers-Houston (15-3), Hampton (7-7), West Mifflin (11-9), Seton LaSalle (12-4), Thomas Jefferson (10-7) and Armstrong (16-4). All were playoff qualifiers.

“Our expectation at the beginning of the season was to prepare the players to be competitive throughout the season,” Semplice-Scott said. “We knew we had a lot of work knowing we had a very young team.

“Our seniors are true leaders as they have taken the underclassmen under their wings and have taught them what it takes to be a successful Hawk.”

The Black Hawks’ starting lineup has included sophomore Becky Gillenberger (1B), senior Delaney Sierka (2B), sophomore Julia Miller (SS), sophomores Nicollette Antonucci (3B) and Lupe McElvenny (3B), and senior Sandra Soltes (C), a Pitt recruit.

The outfield is manned by senior Ali Sniegocki, senior Abby Quickel and freshman Savana Knauff. Taylor Striegel has been the team’s designated player the second half of the season.

A pair of sophomores, Mackenzie Wade and Belinda Bova, have shared time in the pitcher’s circle.

Five players on last year’s team are continuing their careers at the next level. They are shortstop Reagan Milliken (Ohio State), first baseman Gina Sciullo (Georgetown), center fielder Lauren Caye (Seton Hall), pitcher Delaney Nagy (UConn) and INF/DP Emily Momchilovich (Chatham).


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