Northwestern recruit Ryan Petras leads Bethel Park baseball into WPIAL playoffs

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Saturday, May 18, 2024 | 11:01 AM


Football and baseball are the two main sports for Bethel Park’s junior super athlete Ryan Petras.

Petras led the Bethel Park football team in receiving and scoring last fall and ranked second in rushing.

He has received offers from some Ivy League schools to play college football.

But it’s on the diamond where his future is headed.

Petras, an athletic shortstop for the Black Hawks (who played center field as a sophomore), has committed to play baseball at Northwestern, an NCAA Division I Big Ten Conference member.

And while he was batting a robust .500 earlier in the spring season, Bethel Park coach Pat Zehnder was genuinely impressed with the 5-foot-10, 177-pound middle infielder’s defensive skills.

“Ryan (has) continued to be a consistent, stabilizing force for the team,” Zehnder said. “Ryan has put a lot of time into improving his defense over the past three years, even though he was already a plus defender.

“He has really improved his rhythm and step work to attack the baseball and get the hops he wants. His arm strength has also improved from last year, enabling him to make plays in the hole that only he has the agility to get to. He can be an elite defender at the next level.”

Bethel Park has won two PIAA baseball championships and two WPIAL runner-up trophies over the last three years.

Petras is a third-year varsity player. He was the team’s leadoff hitter last year and now is hitting second in the batting order.

“Ryan is an important leader for the team,” Zehnder said. “Both his talent and his experience as an infielder and outfielder help him know where everyone should be on a given play, which helps his positioning and pre-pitch communication.

“Ryan’s teammates selected him as a captain this year as a junior, which says all it needs to about his leadership. He always carries himself professionally, and his consistent demeanor combined with his competitive drive makes him an ideal leader. It really helps the entire program when one of your best players is also one of the best humans and hardest workers on the team.”

Petras wrapped up the regular season with a team-leading .456 batting average, .563 on-base percentage, .596 slugging percentage, five doubles, 34 total bases, 18 stolen bases and 1.160 OPS and only committed two errors in 20 games.

He was selected as a Trib HSSN Player of the Week in early April.

“Ryan continues to be our main catalyst with his bat, on the base paths and defensively,” Zehnder said. “He has been one of the best players in the state all season long and does it with a quiet confidence that I really respect.”

Bethel Park ended the regular season with a 13-6-1 record, including a 7-3 mark and first-place finish in Section 2-5A.

The Black Hawks won their last three games and six of seven down the season’s home stretch, and won nine of 11 contests in the second half of their schedule.

“We continued to trend upward throughout the season, and down the home stretch we were playing some good baseball,” Zehnder said. “Our pitching and defense continued to be strong, and our offense has been trending upward since the halfway point of the season.

“It is always our goal to be playing our best baseball in May and June, and it appears we are on track with that. We just need to be able to sustain that momentum now. The guys have also raised their level in practice, so it is good to see performance reflect the hard and high-quality work that has been put in throughout the season, especially in the second half.”

Other leading hitters for the Black Hawks prior to the playoffs were Ryan Tierney, with a .349 batting average, .431 on-base percentage and a team-high 25 runs scored; and Dylan Paul, who hit .341 with a .473 on-base percentage and led the club in RBIs with 16. He also had 25 total bases.

“Ryan Tierney has been a great leadoff hitter and leader for us,” Zehnder said. “Dylan Paul has had numerous huge two-out RBI hits and other big hits during the second half, and has also been big for us on the mound.”

The team’s pitching corps was anchored by Santino Diulus (5-1, 1.33 ERA) and Ryan Walsh (2-1, 1.95 ERA).

“Santino Diulus and Ryan Walsh continue to be two of the best starting pitchers in the WPIAL,” Zehnder said. “Dylan Schumacher has also been big in relief.

“Nick Rillo has done a great job at catcher while our starter — and other offensive catalyst — Ethan Stanhoff recovered from an injury.”

Stanhoff hit .352 with a .426 slugging percentage and drove in 14 runs.

Noah LeJuene was the team leader in home runs with four and finished with a .549 slugging percentage, .922 OPS and 28 total bases.

Jack Bruckner did not commit and error this season while Mike Bruckner was 3-3 on the mound with one save. Offensively, he had 26 total base and 14 RBIs.

Three other leaders in the RBI category were Petras (12), LeJeune (12) and Walsh (9). Petras accounted for 21 runs scored, Mike Brucker crossed home plate 10 times, Walsh and Aaron Hofbauer scored nine runs apiece and Jack Bruckner tacked on eight runs scored.

“The team continued to jell and learn how to play together as the season has gone on,” Zehnder said. “We have also been doing a much better job at the plate lately, and we hope to continue that momentum into the playoffs. With so many new guys in the lineup offensively, defensively and on the mound, we knew that as we got more live game reps and quality practices on a baseball field, we were going to get better in just about every area as the season went on.

“I am very proud of the work this team has put in over the past few months to be where they are today. I am also thankful to be surrounded by such great coaches and families that support the program and help these kids in so many ways.”

The fourth-seeded Black Hawks received a first-round bye in the WPIAL 5A playoffs and were scheduled to play the winner between No. 5 Plum and No. 12 Trinity on May 20 in the quarterfinals.

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