Pine-Richland baseball program has no plans to lower bar

Friday, March 13, 2020 | 9:28 PM

The defending WPIAL Class 6A champion Pine-Richland baseball team is entering the season fully aware of how others may perceive them.

After enjoying two titles in the last three years, the program graduated 11 seniors from last year, including four Division I players. While replacing a host of pedigreed players is no small feat, Rams coach Kurt Wolfe is undaunted.

Some onlookers from outside of the program might have diminished expectations for this year’s team, but coach Wolfe said he and his players are striking a different attitude.

“I know from the outside perspective what it looks like, with us losing a bunch of multiyear starters and, in some cases, 4-year starters and Division I guys. It might not be expected that we’ll compete at the same level,” Wolfe said.

“But that’s not how we look at it. We have significant contributors from last year’s team returning, and we have a lot of young guys that are hungry to compete and continue to shoot for those same goals and achieve those same standards for success.”

One of those returning contributors for the Rams, junior pitcher Tommy Beam, was certainly a significant component of last year’s group. The West Virginia commit was the starting pitcher in the WPIAL Class 6A title contest and went 5-3 on the mound for the season, notching a 1.48 ERA with 66 strikeouts in 471/3 innings pitched. Beam is expected to anchor the Rams pitching staff at the top of their rotation.

Other notable returners include Bucknell commit Grant Voytovich, who hit .323 with 13 RBIs last year. The senior also is expected to log major innings on the mound. Chase Vrabel is another returner and is poised to form a strong punch in the middle of the Rams lineup along with Voytovich.

“Grant Voytovich is a kid that can do a lot for us. He’s going to pitch, hopefully as our second starter, and when he’s not pitching he’ll be our starting shortstop,” Wolfe said.

“He’ll be a guy that we’re confident in as a middle-of-the-lineup bat. Same with Chase Vrabel — he’s going to hit in the middle of our lineup and probably play first base. Those are two guys that played big roles for us last year that were keys to our success.”

The Rams boast a formidable senior class this season, with Voytovich, Wesley Byrd, Dylan DiNapoli, Nick Guidas, Connor Murphy, Justin Lowe, Chuck Spontak, Marshall Weinberg and Luke Meckler providing leadership.

Juniors Sean Connelly and Kyle Lenhart also will be relied on to contribute. Fellow juniors Joey Woodrow and Tanner Singh are in competition for the starting catcher spot, and Kyle Kimoto appears to be rounding into a utility infielder with a solid defensive skill set, according to Wolfe.

Sophomores Tyler Armstrong, Jeremiah Hasley and Andy Swartout add depth to the unit and will compete for playing time at a number of positions.


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