Hempfield baseball banking on strong pitching staff

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Tuesday, March 12, 2019 | 7:52 PM


Hempfield senior outfielder Luke Hudson turned in quite a performance last season.

He led the Spartans with a .431 batting average, 23 RBIs, six triples and three home runs. That performance helped him earn a scholarship to Seton Hill.

But Hudson said last year is history.

“It’s a fresh start, and I’m forgetting about my numbers from last year,” Hudson said. “I’m trying to become a positive role model for all of these guys since I was voted the captain. I want to compete and remain a positive role model because they are looking up to me.”

Hempfield graduated a lot of offensive talent from a squad that won the Section 2-6A title with an 8-2 mark and went 16-6 overall. The Spartans fell in the WPIAL semifinals to North Allegheny after opening the tournament by defeating Pine-Richland.

The 2019 team will have a different look than the 2018 squad, which had a lot of offense. This team will rely on pitching, defense and manufacturing runs.

Shortstop Isaiah DiAndreth, a three-year starter now at Seton Hill, batted .426 with a team-high 29 hits and nine doubles, and 15 RBIs. Outfielder Nick DiAndreth, Isaiah’s twin who is now starting at IUP, batted .333 with 12 RBIs, catcher Traynor Granatire batted .372 with 12 RBIs and pitcher Justin Wright, now at St. Johns, hit .254 with 15 RBIs. All will be tough to replace.

Hempfield coach Tim Buzzard said Hudson and senior pitcher Tyler Dancu, who batted .360 with 18 runs scored, will have to carry the offensive load.

“It’s going to be different not seeing Isaiah out there at shortstop,” Buzzard said. “We have a lot of good kids fighting for jobs. It’s time for them to step up.”

The veteran coach is high on his pitching staff, which he considers will be the strength of the Spartans. He likes the depth of the staff.

Dancu and junior Tyler Wiederstein will be the top hurlers, along with sophomore Christian Zilli, who started in the WPIAL playoffs; senior Shane Stuchell, who shined for the Hempfield East American Legion team last summer; sophomore Phil Fox; and senior Reed Hipps.

They must replace Jake Anderson and his 1.21 ERA, and Wright (3.28).

Dancu pitched 22 2/3 innings and had a 4.94 ERA, and Wiederstein pitched in 19 1/3 innings with a 2.53 ERA, but the duo must throw strikes and cut down on walks this season.

“It’s going to take a lot of teamwork and working together if we want to challenge for the section title,” Dancu said. “The difference between last year’s team and this year’s team is that we’ll need to grind out the games that were real tight.

“We’ll need to play small ball, and if we work together we can beat it. One guy is not better than the other, and we must remember that and work hard every day.”

Buzzard knows the section will be tough as usual. Norwin and Penn-Trafford return a lot of players, Plum and Connellsville are good programs and Latrobe is always sound. Latrobe replaced Penn Hills in Section 2.

“We have a new group that I believe will be up for the challenge in the section,” Buzzard said. “I’m excited to see what happens.”

Senior Hunter Eperesi will get a shot at shortstop, and Zilli will see time at third base. He’s also excited to see if Reni Brasili’s bat continues to get better.

The big lefty batted .231 in limited action in 2018, but he’s a powerful hitter. Zilli batted .375.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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