Trib HSSN Baseball Team of the Week for June 11, 2023

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Sunday, June 11, 2023 | 3:52 PM


The new poster boys of ‘Just make it to the playoffs and anything can happen’ are the 2023 Mt. Lebanon and Hopewell baseball teams.

The Blue Devils overcame an 0-8 start to win a second straight WPIAL 6A crown and are still alive heading into the PIAA semifinals.

The Vikings were the No. 14 seed in the WPIAL Class 4A playoffs, ended up shocking all in winning district gold and are two wins away from adding a PIAA championship to their dream postseason.

“We’ve been on a great run,” Hopewell coach Morgan Singletary said. “It’s been a lot of fun.”

It wasn’t much fun for the Vikings in April when they dropped to 4-9 overall with a seven-game losing streak in which they were outscored, 75-18.

‘There was a lot of frustration,” Singletary said. “I think we had trouble finding an identity. I don’t know that we had quite the leadership we were expecting. We weren’t performing the way we were expecting.

“We jumped out the first couple of game and we were smashing the ball, then our bats just disappeared over that stretch and it was kind of a surprise of how drastic of a turn it took. It was about working back in and figuring out what kind of team we were going to be.”

A large part of the Vikings’ success in the postseason has been the turnaround in pitching. After allowing 75 runs in seven straight losses in April, Hopewell pitchers have yielded only 13 runs in six playoff wins.

“Our pitching been great through this stretch,” Singletary said. “Landon (Fox) has been doing what we expect him to do. He’s been throwing great. Then the young guys have been coming in. Kingston Krotec (freshman) has been starting our games Landon hasn’t been starting with Johnny Vescio (junior) coming in after him. We have David Medich (sophomore) or Zach Muzy (senior) coming in to close those games out and finish it up for us.”

In the PIAA opener, Krotec shut out Northern Lebanon, 3-0.

“Kingston went the whole game, which was great,” Singletary said. “It was great to see him come out of his shell there and great to see him extend himself and get the success.”

Vescio was 2 for 2 with an RBI in the Vikings victory while freshman catcher Charles Smetana stood out on defense.

“Our catcher threw out three guys that tried to steal on us,” Singletary said. “We knew they were going to try to run and for him to take out the first three guys, that was a huge pickup.”

Up next was a date with District 10 champion Cathedral Prep, a team that was 22-1 heading into the state quarterfinals.

Fox started and pitched 6⅓ innings, allowing only two runs on six hits with six strikeouts.

“His fastball, he was throwing low and the umpire was calling a low strike, which was nice,” Singletary said. “His changeup was keeping them off balance. It seems to be his go-to pitch. His curveball was struggling a bit, but he was able to sneak a couple of those in.”

He left in the seventh inning with two on and one out in a two-run game. Medich came in and shut the door on the Ramblers.

“He’s had a couple of big saves in some tough situations,” Singletary said. “They had the tying run at first base, and he was going up against their 2-3-4 hitters, who aren’t easy outs, but he came in and did what he had to do.”

The Vikings hope to continue doing what they’re doing as they try to notch an eighth straight victory and earn a berth in the state title game when they battle District 6 champion Bellefonte on Monday at 1st Commonwealth Field in Homer City at 4:30 p.m.

“I don’t know much,” Singletary admitted about the Raiders. “They have two guys that can really throw, so we’re expecting to see those two or one or the other. We’re trying to find out what they do on the bases and what their hitters can do. They have a couple of D-1 players, so we’ll be preparing for them.”

2023 Trib HSSN Baseball Teams of the Week

Week 9 – Riverside Panthers

Week 8 – Neshannock Lancers

Week 7 – Mohawk Warriors

Week 6 – Mt. Lebanon Blue Devils

Week 5 – South Side Rams

Week 4 – Pine-Richland Rams

Week 3 – Canon-McMillan Big Macs

Week 2 – Mars Fightin’ Planets

Week 1 – Shaler Titans

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