Hitters aim to catch up to pitchers for No. 2-ranked Hempfield

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Tuesday, April 2, 2019 | 7:45 PM


It’s six games into the 2019 baseball season and Hempfield coach Tim Buzzard said he has learned a lot about his team.

The early-season report card has both good and bad marks.

The Spartans (4-2) are ranked No. 2 in the latest Trib HSSN Class 6A poll after starting the season 4-0.

Hempfield returned home from Myrtle Beach and defeated Pine-Richland, 5-4. Since then, though, the Spartans lost to Central Catholic, 7-4, and Mt. Lebanon, 4-0.

“We didn’t play well enough against Central Catholic, and we didn’t hit well against Mt. Lebanon,” Buzzard said. “We played pretty well in Myrtle Beach, and as along as we hit the ball, we’re going to be in every game.”

Pitching is Hempfield’s strength, and Buzzard likes what he sees from his staff.

Hempfield has used six pitchers this season: seniors Shane Stuchell, Tyler Dancu and Reed Hipps; junior Tyler Wiederstein; and sophomores Christian Zilli and Phil Fox.

Stuchell (1-0), Fox (1-1) and Dancu (1-1) have each started two games. Stuchell (1.56 ERA) has thrown nine innings, walked one and struck out 13.

Fox has pitched eight innings and has an ERA of 3.50, while Dancu has thrown 8 2/3 innings with an ERA of 4.84.

“Shane is a strike-thrower,” Buzzard said. “He’s not overpowering, but he gets outs. All of the pitchers have done well. If we throw strikes and get ahead of the batters, we’ll be OK.”

Wiederstein (1-0) has pitched in three games and has an ERA of 1.00. He’s pitched seven innings.

Hipps hasn’t allowed a run, and Zilli has pitched well in his two appearances.

Dancu said consistency is the key to being successful on the mound.

“No matter how long you’re pitching, you have to be able to throw strikes,” Dancu said. “There are not as many good hitters in high school. Getting them to put the ball in play is good, which allows your defense to make plays.

“Getting first-pitch strikes allows you to be aggressive. It puts you in control.”

Buzzard said throwing strikes gives the defense a chance to make plays.

He said his staff has different strengths, and he doesn’t really try to change things now unless he has to.

“They have their own styles,” Buzzard said. “If you can’t throw a fastball for a strike, you’re not staying in games very long. I want them to command the fastball.”

Wiederstein said he likes to use a slider as his out pitch. But he agrees pitching ahead is the key.

“I like to concentrate on hitting my spots,” Wiederstein said. “I watch the umpire to see what he’s calling. If he’s giving you the low and away pitch, I try to live there. I try to find what the umpire is calling so I can capitalize on that.

“You can get into a batter’s head if you pitch ahead. It allows you to throw more off speed.”

At practice Tuesday, Buzzard worked with players on hitting the ball where it is pitched.

The team has struggled at the plate the past two games, and Buzzard wants his players to go with the pitch.

“In Myrtle Beach, the offense put up a lot of runs which took pressure off the pitchers,” Buzzard said. “Usually as the season goes on, the pitching gets better.”

Senior Luke Hudson has six hits and seven runs scored for the Spartans. He’s batting .316. Seniors Reed Hipps (.529) and Hunter Eperesi (.450) lead the team with nine hits. Eperesi has a team-high nine RBIs.

Hempfield has a big week ahead before opening section play Monday against Plum. It hosts Bethel Park on Thursday and Butler on Saturday.

If Hempfield’s offense can produce runs and the pitching continues to do its job, the Spartans hope to be in the thick off the Section 2-6A playoff race.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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