Talbots baseball armed for another WPIAL playoff bid behind Kosko, Marshalwitz

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Saturday, May 1, 2021 | 11:01 AM


A pair of lefties have the Hampton baseball team on the right side of the WPIAL playoff picture.

Senior Michael Kosko and junior Cam Marshalwitz are a steady 1-2 punch for the Talbots, who sit on the verge of a fourth consecutive WPIAL postseason berth for the first time in program history.

The two left-handers, who entered this spring with fewer than 15 combined innings of varsity pitching experience, hold a cumulative 2.60 ERA in Section 2-5A games for the Talbots (5-7, 5-3). They will lead Hampton against first-place Plum on May 3-4 and Mars on May 10-11 to close out the regular season.

“We don’t have the velocity that some other teams have,” Hampton coach Kellen Wheeler said. “But the way that they can shape and hit their spots, that helps out a lot.”

Kosko is 0-1 with a 3.15 ERA, 11 strikeouts and eight walks in a team-high 20 innings. Marshalwitz is 3-0 in section play with a 1.87 ERA, 15 strikeouts and seven walks in 15 innings.

The importance of having two quality starters is enhanced this spring because the WPIAL now schedules all section games with the same two teams playing on back-to-back days, home-and-home. Because of PIAA pitch-count rules, the new format prevents teams from throwing their ace in all of the important section games.

With quality left-handers being relatively rare in high school, Hampton has the edge of using two in consecutive games in section play.

“It’s a huge advantage for us, whenever I’m starting one game and then Cam is starting the next game,” Kosko said. “A lot of teams don’t see back-to-back lefties, especially with our caliber for two starters.”

Kosko, who threw only 5 1/3 innings as a sophomore reliever in 2019, opened his senior season by limiting Upper St. Clair to six innings of one-hit shutout ball in a 2-1 loss March 26. The 5-foot-11, 180-pounder also pitched six solid innings in a key 4-3 eight-inning victory over Fox Chapel on April 19.

“For the majority of the season, his offspeed stuff is working pretty much every game,” Wheeler said. “He just comes out and he’s a leader. He’s a senior, and he gets the job done the way we need him to get the job done.”

Kosko, whose best pitch is a changeup, lifted weights during the pandemic, adding 15 pounds. He also continued to work with Slippery Rock pitching coach Sean Holliday and his brother Brian, two former star pitchers at Moon, at their Triple Crown Training facility in Coraopolis.

“From where he started at to where he’s at now, you can definitely tell what he’s done with his body has added some velocity to his fastball,” Sean Holliday said. “And not just to his fastball. But the arm speed as well, which adds to the movement of the other pitches. He’s definitely made a lot of strides as far as improving his pitches and repeating and the command of his pitches.”

Kosko also, for the first time, has developed confidence in his curveball.

“Ever since sophomore year, I struggled throwing my curveball,” he said. “But right now I’m throwing my curveball more for strikes. My changeup has good depth, and I’m able to mess up hitters’ timing. I might not be overpowering people with my fastball, but the changeup is a great equalizer for me.”

Marshalwitz is more of a power pitcher, relying on a high-70s to low-80s fastball. The 6-foot-2 junior also put on about 15 pounds of muscle during the offseason, up to 175. He limited Penn Hills to one hit in a 15-0 three-inning rout April 7 — one day after Penn Hills had upset the Talbots, 9-4 — and got the win in relief in the 4-3 extra-inning victory over Fox Chapel.

Marshalwitz, who starts at first base or outfield when he’s not pitching, has been a pleasant surprise at the plate, leading the Talbots with a .586 batting average in section play with 15 runs scored and 10 RBIs.

He posted multiple-hit games against Woodland Hills, Penn Hills (twice), Armstrong (twice) and Fox Chapel.

“Going into the season I was really looking to help from a pitching standpoint and not from batting, because it’s never been a big strength of mine,” Marshalwitz said. “But I did a lot of work this summer … and it’s come to me a lot better.”

Marshalwitz, whose brother, Hampton grad Casey, is a right-handed sophomore pitcher at Division I Youngstown State, played this past summer in showcase events for the D-Bat Elite National U18 team in Northern Virginia.

“I just tried to expose myself to as much baseball as I really could,” he said.

The Talbots boast pitching depth beyond Kosko and Marshalwitz. Senior Shane Bischke, junior Vinnie Matthews and sophomore Ryan Apaliski — another southpaw — have provided quality innings.

“Coming into the season, I was really worried about pitching,” Marshalwitz said. “I thought, ‘Me and Michael are basically it.’ But we’ve had a lot of opportunities for guys to step up with the pitching, and they’ve done a pretty good job so far.”

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