Pine-Richland baseball team remains young but expects to compete

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Sunday, March 20, 2022 | 10:58 AM


A rash of injuries to a large senior class last year contributed to a rare playoff absence for the Pine-Richland baseball team.

It also allowed some younger players to receive varsity playing time a little earlier than they might have in a normal year, which could prove beneficial for 2022.

The Rams will be young again this year, but they have their eyes on competing in a strong Class 6A.

“Anytime you can get some young men some experience at the varsity level it’s a bonus,” Pine-Richland coach Kurt Wolfe said. “We have six freshmen on varsity for the first time in my coaching tenure. We never kept more than three freshmen at any point. This is the smallest senior class we’ve ever had with five. We have seven juniors and two sophomores. It’s a nice mix.”

Jacob McGuire is a good example of a player who took advantage of playing time that resulted from last year’s injuries. As a sophomore, he ascended to the No. 1 starting pitcher with injuries to Tommy Beam and Gabe Mustovic and performed well.

He will be the ace of the staff again this spring.

“McGuire proved last year and this year that he can command three different pitches,” Wolfe said. “He can keep you off balance and has enough velo to keep you honest. He does a great job of controlling the game.”

The rest of the pitching staff is still being sorted out. Andy Swartout, a senior, was another player who had an injury last year and didn’t pitch, but he has been throwing this spring. Senior Nate Zavasky, freshmen Tristan Farrar, Keegan Diehl and Braden Buhl and juniors Sam Grana and Owen Henne also are expected to pitch. Diehl will miss some time to begin the season with a hand injury.

In the field, Henne is penciled in at shortstop. Tyler Armstrong, a senior and an East Georgia recruit, will slot at first base. Junior Cole Nelson is a frontrunner at second base. Grana started some at third base last year and is expected to do the same in 2022. Freshman Tanner Cunningham, senior Jason Komaromy and sophomore Tommy Zimmerman are also in the mix for playing time in the infield.

Swartout can play first base and right field. Senior Joseph Connell, sophomore Peyton Ford and McGuire can play multiple positions.

Anthony Mengine, a freshman, is competing for an outfield spot with Connell, Ford and Swartout.

“Mengine, we feel, is a frontrunner to win one of those spots,” Wolfe said. “How it breaks down will depend on if Swartout wins that No. 2 starting pitcher job. I think there will possibly be a revolving door in the outfield. It’ll be fun and interesting.”

The Rams have three catchers: freshman Sam Heckert and juniors Joey Perry and Andrew Salvadore.

Avery Brown, a junior, is someone Wolfe said has impressive pop in his bat and will see time at designated hitter.

The Rams will be in a difficult Section 1-6A with Allderdice, Butler, Central Catholic, North Allegheny and Seneca Valley. North Allegheny shortstop Cole Young is projected to go in the first round of the MLB Draft this summer. Butler, Central Catholic and Seneca Valley were also playoff teams last year.

“(Class) 6A is loaded this year,” Wolfe said. “Even in the other section there’s several really good teams. We’re hoping to find a way to get in the playoffs. We feel we have a lot of talented, gritty young men, and the more they mature and the more experience they get the better we’re going to get. We’re excited about it. We can be a surprise. That’s for sure.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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