Pine-Richland baseball rebuilds pitching rotation

Sunday, March 25, 2018 | 8:12 PM

After taking the WPIAL Class 6A championship thanks in large part to a shutdown pitching staff and a timely ability to manufacture runs, the Pine-Richland baseball team begins its title defense this spring with a much different stable of arms.

Three of the Rams' top starters, and their go-to closer, from last season have moved on to play collegiate ball. But while the team may not possess the pitching pedigree it did last year, coach Kurt Wolfe said they have plenty of live arms to fill the void.

“It's a nice mixture this year, but I don't think people realize we lost three Division I kids and two Division II kids, and four of those guys were our pitchers that pitched quite a bit last year,” Wolfe said.

“But as much as we lost, we're excited to have a lot of good players back. A lot of these kids have really gotten bigger and stronger and have developed into players that I feel are going to be able to contribute this season.”

Senior right-hander and Clarion commit Bryce Grenet enters the year as the Rams' 1A starter on the mound, and Wolfe describes junior righty Matt Schietroma as the team's 1B pitcher.

Junior Josh Scherer will serve as the third arm in the rotation, and 6-foot-5 freshman Tommy Beam has flashed impressive potential and figures to see innings as well.

All combined, it's a group that only saw 17 13 innings of varsity action last season. When it comes to the bullpen, however, Pine-Richland boasts plenty of experience.

“We have a lot of senior leadership on the mound in relief, and that's huge,” Wolfe said. “We have David Eichenlaub, who pitched about 10 innings for us last year. We have Matt Bullock, and he pitched some innings. Tommy Camino is back, and he saw action for us last year. Then we also have Craig Kunkel, a senior lefty that can pitch.

“We have two other left-handers in Alec Swartout and Wesley Byrd that can hurl for us, so we have four young starters with maybe some inexperience, but then we have arms that we're not afraid to go to a little bit earlier in the game if need be.”

While the Rams may have to be patient on the mound, hitting should be a different story.

Pine-Richland returns a trio of juniors in Vanderbilt commit Troy LaNeve, Penn State commit Matt Wood and Kent State commit Josh Johnson — a group that combined to lead the WPIAL champs in virtually every hitting category last season.

“We feel a lot of young men are going to fit right in and are going to be able to contribute around those three guys. Kunkel may not have a Division I scholarship, but I put him in the same category as those three guys,” Wolfe said. “Those four will be our 2-3-4-5 hitters. They'll be the heart of our lineup.

“I also think we have a lot of other guys who have worked hard and gotten better during the offseason, and they'll be able to fill in around them and really contribute for us.”

Jacob Weinberg, Jeremy Burnstein and Jake Maley are poised to contribute as outfielders. J.D. Armstrong will tackle shortstop duties, and Tyler Woodrow and Jake Betush provide depth in the middle infield. At third base, Scherer and Ryan Brash will compete for playing time.

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.

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