North Xtra: With familiar face at helm, Hampton rolls

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He's back.

Those close to the Hampton community remember the name Gary Wilson. Wilson coached the Talbots baseball team for 13 years before taking the past four years off. But his desire to return was too strong, putting Wilson in the position he is right now. Wilson is in the first year of his second stint as head coach of Hampton.

In his first term, Wilson had a decent amount of success, taking the Talbots to WPIAL championship games in 2004 and 2010 but lost both times.

This time around, he is hoping to finish the feat.

Hampton was off to a 3-1 start and 2-0 mark in Class AAA Section 5 behind a balanced attack on offense and on the mound.

The Talbots defeated Mars Area at home and Knoch at Pullman Park, two opponents Wilson sees as threats to dethrone them of a section title.

"The biggest games were Mars and Knoch," Wilson said. "Those are going to be two of our tougher opponents all year. We had a good start on Mars jumping on them early. Ben Vey had a no-hitter going into the seventh inning. He is our No. 1 pitcher. He is returning from last year."

The Talbots followed up the 9-1 victory with a nearly identical outcome against Knoch, defeating the Knights, 8-1, on another stellar pitching performance from David Cricks.

"We have enough arms but we have some untested guys," Wilson said. "We got guys who play positions but can spell us for an inning here and there. It is hard to say how deep we are but we have plenty of arms."

It appeared the Talbots were going to need as many arms as they could muster with the busy schedule they had this week. Mother Nature averted that problem, however, with postponements of two section games (Highlands and Kittanning) on Monday and Tuesday.

The Talbots were scheduled to play North Allegheny in a non-section game Wednesday and they are supposed to play Valley today at home.

Even though he was not the coach last year, Wilson acknowledges the success the program had in winning the section title with an undefeated 10-0 mark. And with that success comes pressure.

"I think there is always pressure there," Wilson said. "The kids seem confident and they are working hard. We talk a lot about baseball and how anything can happen. Never underestimate anybody and I think they understand that. If you win the section [title], it betters your odds at making a deep run in the playoffs."

"Our goal is to win the section whether it is undefeated or not but, that would be nice to do that back-to-back years," Wilson said. "I don't think any of those teams are going to take it easy on us."

Other players who are expected to contribute on the mound with the condensed schedule will be their top junior pitcher Eric Mikula and junior Jack Egan. Mikula is also a backup in the field.

The Talbots have several position players returning from a year ago, led by senior outfielders Eddie Edwards and Charlie Winick. Also returning are seniors Zach Staszak and Steve Dayton. Staszak is a utility infielder while Dayton primarily calls third base his home.

Helping out the pitching staff will be junior catcher Brandon Olsewski. Olsewski started last year as a sophomore.

With the pieces to make it back to a WPIAL championship game in tact, the Talbots are hoping Wilson's presence will complete the puzzle.

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