South Xtra: As usual, Bethel a contender again on diamond

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The past three year's, Bethel Park has entered the conversation as one of the contenders to win a WPIAL Class AAAA championship.

In 2011, the Black Hawks lost in the WPIAL semifinals to Seneca Valley. They followed that up with a section title in 2012 and finished in second place to Canon-McMillan in the section last year.

This is saying a lot knowing the landscape of Class AAAA Section 5.

"We call it the gauntlet," fourth-year Black Hawks coach Tony Fisher said. "Our section is brutal. Mt. Lebanon has solid pitching. Canon-Mac is the defending section champion. Peters Township is returning a ton and USC is always tough.

"There is not much wiggle room. You just have to find a way to get in the playoffs."

That is easier said than done, especially with the turnover Bethel Park is experiencing from last year.

The Black Hawks are returning just two starters from a season ago after graduating 11 players who accumulated 35 wins in two years. That hasn't deterred them from pointing toward the same goals they set at the beginning of each year.

"We want to go out and compete everyday," Fisher said. "We want to continue Bethel Park baseball. We only return two starters from last year's team. These other guys are going to have opportunities to make a difference."

The Black Hawks took a 2-3 overall record into their game yesterday against Peters Township. They have wins against Thomas Jefferson and Hampton on a walk-off home run by Carmen Jansante. They were 0-1 in Section 5-AAAA.

"We are happy with our wins but we need to continue to get better," Fisher said. "We are making young mistakes because we are a young team. Hopefully when they make the mistake once, they won't make it again. That is the key."

The Black Hawks have seven seniors on their roster, but are counting on two juniors to lead the way.

Corey Augenstein has stepped up as the team's ace and has pitched in two of the Black Hawks' first three games.

"We haven't given him much run support," Fisher said. "Corey does a fantastic job of throwing three pitches for strikes. He believes in his pitches. He shows great command. He competes and he executes."

Leading the charge in the batting order would be Zac Forsyth. Forsyth hit .375 as a sophomore second baseman, but has made a position change. He is turning double plays from the other side of the second base bag, taking over at shortstop for his brother, Dakota, who is playing at Penn State this year.

"Zac is sliding over for his brother at short," Fisher said. "He has to step up and become a leader."

Also looking to make an impact is first baseman Harry Siwik, who lettered last year as a junior.

Joining Augenstein on the pitching staff will be juniors Luke Hahey and Joe Zufall. Hahey will serve as the closer and Zufall will complement Augenstein in the rotation. Zufall picked up the win against Thomas Jefferson as he struck out nine in that game.

With every section game they play this year guaranteed to be harder than the previous, it is nice to have a relaxing game on your schedule.

For the fourth year in a row, Bethel Park will be playing at PNC Park. This year the Black Hawks will take on Bishop McCort from Johnstown on April 13.

"Our boosters do a great job of putting this together," Fisher said. "Some of the younger guys are looking forward to it. I look forward to it and I bring my son down to be the bat boy."

Ultimately, Fisher is trying to take his young team to where no Black Hawks team has been since 2007 -- the WPIAL championship game. Although that year's team lost, 12-0, to Peters Township in the title game, Fisher knows that more than talent is needed to get there.

"It is better to be lucky than good," Fisher said. "People thought that we were loaded that year but we weren't. They were just a scrappy team. If you get a streak together, you never know what can happen."

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