North Xtra: Pitching staff carrying Hampton's hopes

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When it comes to outstanding pitching, Hampton's talent trumps nearly all of the other teams in the WPIAL.

It has paid big dividends, too, as the Talbots have asserted themselves as one of the leading contenders to win the Class AAA championship.

"We stress that if we throw strikes and play good defense, we're going to win games," Hampton coach Matt Torrence said. "Our pitching is going to carry us. If we hit like we're capable of, we're going to do well."

Simply "doing well" has been an understatement thus far. Hampton was 12-2 and in first place in Section 5 with an 8-0 record heading into Wednesday's game against Knoch. Hampton, ranked No. 4 in Class AAA, has clinched a spot in the postseason for the eighth year in a row.

Pitching has been the biggest reason why. In 11 games against WPIAL foes, Hampton has allowed a microscopic total of only 17 runs. On the season, the Talbots have four shutouts and have limited four other teams to one run.

"I think of all the years I've been here, especially on the varsity staff, this might be the deepest [pitching] staff we've had," said Torrence, who is in his fourth season as head coach and was previously an assistant.

Hampton went 14-7 last season and advanced to the WPIAL quarterfinals. The Talbots were also excellent on the mound then and returned two of their top three starters this season.

Senior right-hander Joe Vita is a three-year starter. He and John Arnold -- who graduated -- were the top two starters in 2012. This season, Vita has teamed with junior right-hander Ben Vey, the No. 3 starter last season, to give the Talbots an excellent tandem at the top of the rotation.

"Joey has a good fastball and a dynamite changeup. That's his 'out' pitch," Torrence said. "He's got a good curveball. He's not going to overpower you, but he throws a ton of strikes.

"Ben throws a little harder. He has a good slider and good curve. He throws a lot of strikes, too."

Junior David Cricks has served as the No. 3 starter, and seniors Derek Layo and Brandon Marsonek have gotten most of their work in relief.

Hampton's offense isn't exactly explosive, but the Talbots have had their moments. They've scored at least 10 runs three times and at least seven on three other occasions.

Junior right fielder Eddie Edwards, Vey and junior first baseman Steve Dayton are the 3-4-5 hitters and have had quite a bit of success for an offense that is balanced and, in Torrence's opinion, "ready to break out."

"No one has really been the one guy pounding it. It kind of goes in spurts," Torrence said. "If our pitching and defense stays consistent, our bats are going to wake up and we're going to have a good end to the season."

Junior left fielder Charlie Winek bats leadoff and is followed by senior second baseman Tommy Radziminski, a four-year starter. Following Dayton are junior third baseman Zach Staszak, sophomore catcher Brandon Olszewski, senior center fielder Dan Gryzbek and senior shortstop Troy Merigliano.

Hampton's only losses were to Class AAAA No. 3 Seneca Valley and R.J. Reynolds, N.C.

"Right now, I know we're in a good spot," Torrence said.



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