Recruiting process takes Freeport pitcher Michael Hanz to the place he belongs

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Monday, August 21, 2023 | 5:02 PM


Michael Hanz first made contact with the West Virginia baseball program a couple of summers ago.

The Freeport junior right hander’s pitching prowess at a camp on campus caught the eye of the Mountaineers coaches.

Hanz attended several WVU camps since then. The most recent camp there this past weekend proved to be most fruitful.

He received an offer Saturday and accepted it with a verbal commitment the same day. He made his decision public Sunday morning through an announcement on Twitter.

“I am proud to announce that I will be continuing my academic and athletic career at West Virginia University. I would like to thank my coaches and family for all the support. Country roads, take me home,” Hanz’s Twitter message read.

Hanz said he’s excited to make WVU his home in two years.

“The coaching staff is amazing,” he said. “Ever since I first started talking to them, they’ve showed me so much respect. The way they do thing down there really caught my attention. The baseball facilities and just the overall atmosphere of campus and the program really drew me to it.”

Hanz said it has always been a dream to play the sport he loves at the college level. To do so at Division I, he said, is icing on the cake.

“My goal was a school at any college level,” he said. “I attended a few showcases, and coaches started inviting me to camps and following me on Twitter. More and more, I saw that playing at the Division I level was a real possibility. That was huge motivation to continue to work hard along with the motivation to be my best for Freeport and my travel team.”

Freeport coach Ed Carr said West Virginia is a great fit for Hanz.

“I know this is a thrill for him to be able to commit to a school and program like West Virginia,” Carr said. “We’re really proud of him.”

Hanz played for Hardcore Elite baseball at the 16U select level this summer and pitched a lot during travel tournaments. He also fared well at Prep Baseball Report’s WPIAL Scout Day on Aug. 2 at Montour High School, where his fastball reached 86 miles per hour.

“Having this decision behind me is a big relief, but knowing that I have to continue to get better to keep the offer, I know I can’t let up at all,” Hanz said. “This is only the beginning.”

Hanz and his Freeport teammates began fall ball workouts Monday.

He also is looking forward to next spring as he returns for the Yellowjackets after a 2023 high school season that saw him battle back from an arm injury to front the pitching staff.

Hanz logged a 1.74 ERA and recorded a team-best 46 strikeouts.

One of the highlights was an 8-0 win over Apollo-Ridge where he combined with then-senior Zach Clark to no-hit the Vikings.

Hanz started and worked the first five innings before giving way to Clark. Of his 63 pitches that day, 44 went for strikes, and he fanned 10.

The Yellowjackets, runners-up to East Allegheny in Section 3-3A, went on to finish 16-7 overall and reach the WPIAL Class 3A quarterfinals before falling to No. 1 Riverside, 9-1.

The undefeated Panthers went on to claim WPIAL and PIAA championships.

Hanz, who also fired a one-hitter against Deer Lakes and smacked a game-winning three-run homer against Valley, earned all-section honors as a sophomore and also was selected to the Valley News Dispatch all-star first team.

“From where he was at the start of last season in March to where he finished, he wasn’t 100 percent but still battled against Riverside, I think he really grew up a lot,” Carr said. “His willingness and ability to compete really improved, and it showed his maturity. He competed hard even when his stuff wasn’t great.

“We always knew that he would look good on the metrics that college coaches would be interested in. He has good size, and he’s got two more years to grow and get better. The sky’s the limit for him and what he can still do.”

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.

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