Loaded Pine-Richland baseball squad stresses team dynamic
By: Kevin Lohman
Friday, March 15, 2019 | 7:49 PM
The Pine-Richland baseball team enters the 2019 season boasting a roster bursting at the seams with talent and experience.
The senior class alone has four players who will be at the Division I programs: Troy LaNeve (Vanderbilt), Matt Wood (Penn State), Josh Johnson (Kent State) and J.D. Armstrong (High Point). With that type of high-caliber talent leading the way, coach Kurt Wolfe and his Rams have plenty of reasons to feel confident as they gear up for the competition in Section 1-6A.
“It’s comforting not only for them but for the young guys, the new guys coming in,” Wolfe said. “It makes the young guys’ transition a little bit smoother, so they know they don’t have to do everything.
“They know they’re part of something bigger than themselves. They can follow the seniors’ lead.”
Wood (catcher) is one player to watch after he led the team with .444 batting average, three home runs and 22 RBIs last season. Half of Wood’s 24 hits were for extra bases, and he walked 15 times compared to five strikeouts in 69 plate appearances.
LaNeve will play second base, Armstrong will be at short and Johnson patrols center field.
Another experienced senior, Matt Schietroma, returns to lead its pitching staff. Sophomore Tommy Beam has been turning heads in preseason workouts, earning the No. 2 starter’s role.
“Tommy’s made huge strides,” Wolfe said. “He’s, obviously, put a ton of work into the weight room, and he’s, obviously, put in a ton of work on the mound. He’s throwing a lot harder and he’s throwing with very good command.
“It’s going to be exciting to see him and Schietroma enter the season as our one and two.”
Left-handed senior Alec Swartout and junior right-hander Grant Voytovich will battle the No. 3 starting role. Voytovich is also locked in a position battle at third base with Justin Lowe.
A couple of other seniors penciled expected to start are Jake Maley (first base) and Josh Scherer (designated hitter).
Second-year starter Wesley Byrd will man right field, and left fielder Kyle Lenhart is the only sophomore to crack the starting lineup among position players. Junior Connor Murphy will look to add depth to the group.
The team’s bullpen will be manned by left-handers Chase Vrabel and Nick Guidas and righty Kevin Bolick.
Seniors John Berger and Tim Hohos add important dimensions, with Berger providing speed and Hohos, Wolfe said, is the super-utility player.
With all their experience, however, the seniors have been through the high of winning a WPIAL Class 6A championship in 2017 and the low of losing in the quarterfinals last season.
That’s why Wolfe stresses the importance of being sharp, top-to-bottom. A player’s ability to stay plugged in regardless of his role can make all the difference.
“Senior classes are leaders by default. It’s their final year. It means a little bit more to them because they’re not going to be playing with their brothers after this,” Wolfe said. “When you have a senior class that’s talented and experienced, it definitely allows the underclassmen to transition into their roles and accept them. We need that if we’re going to be successful.”