Opportunity knocks for Greensburg Salem’s new-look baseball roster

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Monday, March 9, 2020 | 7:30 PM


Greensburg Salem faces a major overhaul of its baseball roster after a season that sent the Golden Lions into the WPIAL Class 4A playoffs as a No. 1 seed.

It doesn’t mean coach Bill Wisniewski hasn’t been looking forward to the challenge.

“It’ll be fun to see them progress,” he said of the 2020 group. “This is like an opportunity here. There are spots all over the field for the taking.”

Nine seniors, including three four-year starters, have graduated from the 2019 Section 1 co-championship team that finished 14-3 after a disappointing and quirky 1-0 quarterfinals loss in 11 innings to New Castle.

The teams played to a scoreless tie through 10 innings May 20 at Fox Chapel before darkness suspended the game. A day later at North Allegheny, New Castle pushed across a run in the 11th to come away with the victory.

In 2018, Greensburg Salem reached the semifinals by beating top-seeded Blackhawk.

“We’ve got a number of underclassmen to go along with some returning seniors. We’ve got guys who’ve been waiting for their time, and we’re hoping it’s now for a number of them,” Wisniewski said. “You never know when the light bulb comes on.”

A group of Greensburg Salem’s former front-line players went on to help Hempfield East, sponsored by Post 981 in South Greensburg, to a runner-up finish in August 2019 at the Pennsylvania American Legion Baseball Championships.

Their dedication and production in the summer months at the Legion level was just another aspect that impressed Wisniewski and reminded him of what is ahead.

With time running short before Greensburg Salem’s scheduled opener March 25 at West Mifflin, Wisniewski and his staff are carefully considering replacements for shortstop Jack Oberdorf, pitcher/infielder Matt Wicker, outfielders Dajauhn Hertzog and Noah Sweeney and first baseman Reid Amundson.

Oberdorf has gone on to Division II Seton Hill, and Wicker and Sweeney to Westmoreland County Community College. Hertzog is sitting out his freshman season as a redshirt wrestler at Division II Pitt-Johnstown.

While nobody officially has secured a starting spot at Greensburg Salem, Wisniewski said a pair of scheduled scrimmages Thursday at Gateway and March 18 at Latrobe could clear up the picture somewhat.

“It’s funny how teams can come together and find their niche,” said Wisniewski, who enters his seventh season as coach of the Golden Lions.

Senior Aaren Putt is expected to open as the team’s No. 1 pitcher. Putt, who also was a running back at Greensburg Salem, is committed to play football at Seton Hill. Last season, as a junior, Putt compiled a record of 5-1 with a 2.79 ERA and also batted .380 for the Golden Lions.

“He’s a kid who will relish the opportunity to take the ball every chance he can get,” Wisniewski said. “He’s been a complementary player for us the past three years and a very good one. But he’s going to have to step up to the No. 1 spot with Wicker gone. I expect big things out of him this year.”

Wisniewski said sophomore catcher Hayden Teska is working out at shortstop in hopes of replacing Oberdorf at that position, and sophomore Brayden Merichko appears to have the best chance at third base, and senior Jack McBride is bidding to become the team’s starting second baseman after last season being mainly used as a designated hitter.

“A lot of these guys have had good varsity at-bats for us, and we expect good things from them as we enter this season,” Wisniewski said.

Teska, as freshman catcher, batted .380 to tie Putt’s average.

After tying Yough for the Section 1-4A championship a year ago, Wisniewski expects the Cougars to be among the contenders again this year. He said Derry, Knoch and Mt. Pleasant also could present major challenges for his Golden Lions.

“It’s a competitive conference year in and year out with some really talented teams,” he said. “We like it because it’s local. Most of our section opponents are close by, and anyone can beat anyone.”

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