Freeport baseball team returns to winning ways

Thursday, March 30, 2023 | 5:12 PM

Freeport baseball coach Ed Carr sensed this could be the year the program bounced back.

It wasn’t that long ago that the Yellowjackets made the WPIAL semifinals and state playoffs, but the last two seasons have been a rebuild.

They only won one section game last year, so this week’s two-game sweep of Derry to open Section 3-3A play provided some fun moments and proof Freeport (4-1, 2-0) is trending in a positive direction.

“We went from a perennial WPIAL contender before covid to basically starting from square one, and it was going to take some time,” Carr said.

“I give the kids credit for being mature enough to see it for what it was, and every day for the last two years, we’ve grown. They believed we could get back to this point. It’s only two section wins and four wins overall, but the foundation is set that we expect to be a section and WPIAL contender. People can laugh about it, because the last two years we were very far from it, but we’ve worked really hard to get back to that mentality. We’re not going to put the cart before the horse. We haven’t made the playoffs. We’ve won two section games. We know adversity is going to come.”

Freeport took the opening game of the series 4-3 on Tuesday, but it wasn’t without intense moments. Yellowjackets starter Michael Hanz allowed one hit, an infield single, but an error helped Derry plate three runs and take a 3-2 lead midway through the game. Freeport got the lead back the next half inning. Stephen Evans had a pinch-hit RBI groundout, and CJ Walker used heads-up baserunning to score on a wild pitch. Then, Dustin Rape shut the door on the mound in relief.

Jack Smetak tripled in a run, and Malik Febinger had an RBI single in the win.

“Winning that first one in the fashion we did after facing some adversity and being down midway through after giving up only one hit was good for us,” Carr said. “You could just sense the guys were so loose (Wednesday) and confident going onto the field. It was a lot of fun. The dugout was electric, and it reminded me of our teams, pre-covid. It really did.”

Tyler Asti and AJ Demharter had a double and two RBIs each. Zach Clark had a pair of RBIs on two singles and was the winning pitcher in a 13-4 win in Game 2.

Clark pitched 4 1/3 innings and didn’t allow an earned run.

Strong pitching has been a theme for the Yellowjackets thus far.

Hanz and Clark combined to pitch a no-hitter in an 8-0 win over Apollo-Ridge. Hanz struck out 10 over five innings, and Clark picked up the last two.

Hanz and Rape, a Penn State recruit and transfer from Deer Lakes, are sophomores. They anchor the staff along with Clark and Matt Corfield, who are seniors.

Hanz, Clark and Rape have not allowed an earned run this season.

Carr said it’s no secret pitching is the Yellowjackets’ strength, but there’s strong points in every aspect of the game. Now there’s confidence to go with it as they keep going in section play featuring rivals Burrell, Deer Lakes, Shady Side Academy and Valley as well as East Allegheny.

The Yellowjackets play Deer Lakes on Monday and Tuesday.

“We feel like we have strength from a baserunning standpoint, strength on the mound, obviously, some veteran guys in the field and an offense that can give us some run support, compared to the last two years,” Carr said. “If something else fails, we have something else to back it up and it’s been a couple years since we had that.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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