Hempfield baseball to lean on pitching depth, work ethic

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Tuesday, March 10, 2020 | 7:00 PM


Hempfield could take some time to find its identity on the baseball diamond, and 13th-year coach Tim Buzzard is in no hurry to see that happen.

“We still have things to figure out,” Buzzard said. “We have to see which kids blend and mesh. You really don’t know until you start playing games.”

The Spartans will open the season at the Cal Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach, S.C. That essentially will be spring training for the Spartans, even though they actually got to practice outside on their home field this week.

A sleek, new scoreboard greeted them in left field. Now, they want to test the new board to see if it works.

“We have some younger guys, but you can see with this team that the want to fight is there,” said senior pitcher/second baseman Tyler Wiederstein, a Michigan commit. “The effort is there.”

Hempfield has made the WPIAL playoffs 10 straight years and 12 times under Buzzard’s leadership.

With Wiederstein in the lineup, and other talents in junior Phil Fox, junior Christian Zilli and junior Mike Hosni back, another postseason trip could be in the works.

The Spartans were 11-10 last year and tied for third in Section 2-6A. They lost in the first round of the WPIAL tournament to Upper St. Clair, 6-3.

Hempfield made the WPIAL semifinals two years ago and reached the PIAA quarterfinals in 2016.

This team will be young but has potential.

“Pitching-wise, we have some depth,” Buzzard said. “Teams that have success in 6A typically have a lot of seniors. This is the smallest senior group we’ve had (five seniors), so we’ll have a lot of underclassmen on the field. We’ll have seven or eight (underclassmen) on the field most of the time.”

Wiederstein, Zilli and Fox will be key pitchers, while senior Austin Resnik and sophomores Brandon Coughlin and Jake Kramer also could see time on the mound.

Add sophomores Joe Fiedor and Ryan Firmstone to that bullpen, along with juniors Braydon Patton and Hunter Smiles.

Zilli and Hosni will be key infielders, along with sophomore Aiden Dunlap. Fox will anchor the outfield in center.

Hosni batted .354 with 10 runs and nine RBIs last year, while Dunlap also scored 10 times and Fox hit .300.

Zilli pitched 18⅔ innings and Wiederstein 16⅔.

Hempfield showed a penchant for hanging around in tight section games. While it lost five one-run decisions, it won two games by a single run. The Spartans played four extra-inning games in a row.

“Last year was probably the most adversity we’ve faced,” Buzzard said. “We were 1-4 at the turn. But it kept things interesting and the kids had fun with it.”

Wiederstein said the close games kept the team’s attention.

“I think that keeps everyone in the game longer,” he said. “Everyone pays attention the whole game, until the end.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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