Trib HSSN Baseball Player of the Week: June 14, 2021

Sunday, June 13, 2021 | 8:44 PM

In most games, Bethel Park’s Eric Chalus is one of two, maybe three seniors in the starting lineup. While 2022 looks bright, Chalus has made sure the future is now for the Black Hawks.

Thanks to his outstanding pitching and strong stick in the batter’s box, the Kent State recruit has led Bethel Park to a 20-4 record and a berth in the PIAA final four.

“Along with our pitching coach, Kyle Nicholson, who has done a great job, Eric deserves a ton of credit for the overall success of our pitching staff,” Bethel Park first-year coach Patrick Zehnder said. “They have been able to see how he conducts himself during games, and the amount of care he puts into the preparation that provides the confidence it takes to be successful as a team’s ace.

“I am so glad that the younger players on our team and throughout our program have been able to see him work this year, whether it is during games, practices or before and after when he is usually picking up garbage, carrying ball buckets, and helping to put tarps on the field. Whether you are a pitcher, hitter, or both, you couldn’t ask for a better role model than Eric Chalus Jr.”

Bethel Park opened up the state playoffs last Monday against District 3 runner-up Northern York. The Black Hawks scored early then added on late thanks to a pair of his from Chalus in a 5-1 victory over the Polar Bears.

“Eric has been one of our best, most consistent bats all year, and he did it again Monday,” Zehnder said. “He does a great job of covering the outside part of the plate by being willing to spray balls to the left side for base hits. Then when pitchers make a mistake or try to get him out inside, he is able to adjust and pull a ball into the right-center gap or down the right field line for a double.

“We faced a pitcher throwing low 90s and Eric was able to battle at the plate and put the ball in play. A hard hit ground ball up the middle in the first inning to give the team confidence against a great pitcher and a hard line drive RBI single to right field for insurance in the seventh.”

Chalus got the start Thursday, bringing his perfect record to the mound in the state quarterfinals against District 11 champion Southern Lehigh.

“Eric was able to shake off a bloop double down the left field line to start the game, (and that batter) later scored,” Zehnder said. “He really shut a good lineup down from then on. As usual, he aggressively attacked the strike zone, consistently getting ahead of hitters, and kept them off balance. He also fielded his position effectively, diving to his right to field a slow roller and throwing the runner out at first. A very Eric Chalus-like outing, as he only needed 73 pitches to get through his six innings. He is able to pitch with a lead and is not overly concerned with getting strikeouts.”

The lefty added two more hits to help his cause on the mound. Chalus led off the thirrd inning with a double to right center, and later scored the go ahead run. Then he hit a single up the middle, stole second base and later scored an insurance run.

“I think Eric is definitely best known as a pitcher, and rightfully so with his success there and future plans,” Zehnder said. “But, he is also a freak athlete with an extremely high baseball IQ, and he uses those skills to his advantage to put together great at-bats and almost always finding a way to be productive when called upon. He’s been one of our best hitters from the beginning of the season through last week. Whether he’s asked to bunt, hit or steal, I have the utmost confidence in him be successful.”

So what had made Chalus one of the top baseball players in the WPIAL in 2021?

“Eric is so mentally tough and has an elite competitive drive,” Zehnder said. “That combined with his raw athletic ability and talent makes him scary. No one works harder, cares more for his teammates and is willing to do whatever it takes to help his team than Eric. It makes it so much easier on a coach when your best player is also your hardest worker and biggest team guy.

“Eric is always working to get better at all aspects of his game. From pickoffs, to fielding his position, to developing more control and effectiveness with his pitches, he is never satisfied and always can find areas where he feels he needs to get better. He will continue to get stronger to gain velocity on his fastball and effectiveness on his off-speed pitches.”

Up next for Chalus and the Black Hawks for a spot in the PIAA championship game is District 6 champion Central Mountain, a team Zehnder knows will be a big challenge in the state semifinals Monday.

“Central Mountain will be a great test,” he said. “They were able to hold an unbelievable Peters Township offense to no hits and held a great West A team to one in the quarterfinals, so we know we have our work cut out for us. We can’t wait to get after it at practice this weekend and will embrace the challenge on Monday.”

2021 Trib HSSN Baseball Players of the Week:

Week 10 – Rocco Bernadina, New Castle

Week 9 – Jake Vitale, Union

Week 8 – Adam Crawford, West Allegheny

Week 7 – Steven Budash, Indiana

Week 6 – Spencer Barnett, North Allegheny

Week 5 – Louie Kegerreis, Franklin Regional

Week 4 – Drew Lafferty and Austin Lafferty, South Park

Week 3 – Payton Conti, California

Week 2 – Jake Slazinski, Keystone Oaks

Week 1 – Jake Walker, West Mifflin


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