East Xtra: Hempfield pitching the key to victory

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The Hempfield Area baseball team has ridden a deep and talented pitching staff to an 11-3 overall record through 14 games and a shot at a section title in what shapes up as a wild finish in Class AAAA Section 2.

Going into Wednesday's games Hempfield (7-2), Penn-Trafford (7-2) and Norwin (7-3) were all vying for the section title.

Hempfield was scheduled to play Connellsville Wednesday before wrapping up its section schedule with games Friday at Albert Gallatin and Monday vs. Greater Latrobe.

It is no secret how the Spartans put themselves in this position. Coach Tim Buzzard welcomed back the deepest pitching staff in his six years with the program.

"Our pitchers have thrown well all year," Buzzard said. "That has easily been our strength. Our kids have all thrown strikes and have all been dominant at times, keeping other teams in check."

The staff is led by seniors Zack Martinelli and Greg Martin. Martinelli is 3-0 with a 1.89 ERA and Martin is 3-2 with a 2.51 ERA.

Martinelli is right-handed and throws around 83 to 86 mph while Martin is left-handed and throws around 79 to 82 mph.

Senior Nathan Mori has been Hempfield's top reliever. He is 2-0 with a 0.58 ERA. Junior pitcher Marc Demilio was another returning starter in the rotation. He is 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA. A new addition to the staff has been junior Tyler Tubbs who is 1-1 with a 1.91 ERA.

"This is by far the deepest and best pitching we have had," Buzzard said. "It is nice to have five guys step up and be consistent, especially when you play so many games."

Hempfield owns non-section wins this season against Shaler Area, Butler Area, Mt. Lebanon and Central Catholic. Its only losses were against Connellsville, North Allegheny and Penn-Trafford by a combined six runs.

Offensively, Hempfield has counted on junior center fielder Joey DeFloria. He was batting .350 with three doubles, one home run and a triple. His numbers are down slightly from last season when he hit .493 with five home runs, but like many of his teammates, DeFloria is a terror on the base paths. He has 12 stolen bases this season while also drawing 16 walks. He is receiving plenty of Division I interest for baseball.

Senior right fielder Luke Fox is batting leadoff. Fox was batting .396 with three triples and nine stolen bases. Mori plays shortstop when he does not pitch. He was batting .386 with 10 stolen bases while only making one error all season at shortstop. Buzzard calls Martin his most consistent hitter. Martin was batting .400 with 5 doubles, 14 walks and 18 RBIs.

"We play good defense and we pitch," Buzzard said. "We have good offensive players but we just haven't clicked or jelled offensively. Our game is that we have kids who can run and kids who are pretty athletic. We put pressure on a defense. Our power numbers are down a little bit, but we definitely can create problems on the bases."

Senior Corey Keenan could have been another pitcher to add to the deep arsenal but problems in his right (throwing) elbow forced him to the infield where he has been an asset. Keenan can play third base, second base or shortstop.

Most of the seniors expect to be playing in college next season including Martinelli (Seton Hill), Mori (Waynesburg) and Keenan (Allegheny). Fox and Martin are also looking at Saint Vincent.

If Hempfield wins out, it is guaranteed at least a share of the section title.

"We are in a dogfight," Buzzard said. "The section is far from locked up."



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