Hampton baseball continues hot start in Section 2-5A

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Thursday, April 18, 2019 | 5:37 PM


After a slow start, the Hampton baseball team finds itself in a good situation — one that’s partly due to situational hitting.

The team scratched out a 7-4 victory over Moon last Tuesday, and doubled down with a 5-3 win against rival Mars Wednesday, advancing to 6-4 overall and 4-1 in a section that will feature more brutal matchups.

Only one of the seven teams (North Hills) in Section 2-5A sported a losing overall record.

Junior pitcher Brendan Erka went 623 innings for the victory against Moon.

The team found itself in a hole early in the season after losing three games by one run while leaving too many runners on base. First-year coach Kellen Wheeler implemented situational hitting drills at practice, and not a moment too soon.

“The games we’ve lost, its been errors and leaving guys on base,” Wheeler said. “Now that we’ve got in section play, we’re starting to get the hits when there are guys on base.”

The payoff has been immediate — as of last Wednesday, the Talbots hadn’t lost a section game since dropping the section opener to South Fayette, 4-3.

“In practice we’ve really worked on situational hitting,” Wheeler said. “It’s something we didn’t do at the beginning of the season. We put it in about a week and a half ago, and it has helped out a lot.”

Pitcher/outfielder and Youngstown State commit Casey Marshalwitz thinks the extra work has helped the team become the early section frontrunners in sole possession of first place.

“Hitting was a very big reason,” he said. “We’d leave a lot of guys on base, nine or 10 kids on base. There was also some times, at the end of a game, where a play needed to be made that wasn’t made that hurt us.”

The team avoided a potentially dangerous situation last Tuesday evening when freshman outfielder Adam Dembowski slid awkwardly into second base. What at first looked to be a break, turned into a bad sprain.

“He’s been one of the best freshmen who has come through the program,” Wheeler said. “It’s been unbelievable how well he’s played, hitting and in the field.”

Dembowski is expected back in a couple weeks, according to his coach.

The pitching depth has also improved, an unlikely development given that projected starter Adam Stroud is still unavailable to pitch, though he has shined in the designated hitter role.

In addition to staff ace Marshalwitz and Erka, senior shortstop Tyler Bischke, a Kent State commit, has filled in as the third starter. In a 7-0 shutout of defending WPIAL champion North Hills, he threw 79 pitches, striking out nine and walking none.

“Tyler had never really been a pitcher,” Marshalwitz said. “He stepped up and is doing really well for us. Brendan did really well (last week), too.”

In addition, the kind April weather has been to the team’s advantage.

“We’ve actually gotten practice outside on the field because of the weather cooperating for us,” Wheeler said. “It’s fantastic Mother Nature is helping out for us.”

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