Defense leads Hempfield baseball past Latrobe in season debut
Isaiah DiAndreth had flied out, reached on an error and walked when he came to the plate for a fourth time in the top of the seventh inning.
The Hempfield senior shortstop was anxious to get a hit and displayed the composure of a third-year starter as he waited for his pitch. The result — a one-out shot to the gap in left-center — gave his team some breathing room in a season-opening victory.
DiAndreth delivered a run-scoring double to drive home an insurance run as the Spartans downed host Latrobe, 4-2, in a nonsection baseball game Thursday at Graham-Sobota Field.
“I just stuck to my approach,” said DiAndreth, a Seton hill recruit. “I knew we needed to get another run in.”
Defending WPIAL and PIAA Class 5A champion Latrobe (1-1) put a runner on in the bottom of the seventh when senior Preston Boerio singled. But Boerio was caught stealing on a glove-popping throw by Spartans senior catcher Traynor Granatire, and the Wildcats did not threaten again.
Hempfield coach Tim Buzzard knew DiAndreth was due in the seventh.
“He was getting a lot of off-speed (pitches) and the last time he sat on a curve ball and was able to hit it the gap,” Buzzard said. “He’s a great hitter ... we expect that out of him, and it’s good to see.”
Class 6A Hempfield had only been outside once, last Monday for a scrimmage. It has taken some defensive practice on the turf at Spartan Stadium but has yet to play or practice on its home field.
“For the first time out, I was pretty happy,” Buzzard said. “We played pretty good defense tonight. We didn’t have our best day offensively, but we had a couple of big hits and got some runs when we needed to.”
With Hempfield leading 3-1 in the third, the Spartans’ defense made sure the damage was minimal, even after the Wildcats loaded the bases. DiAndreth fielded a grounder by junior Adam Wolford, stepped on second and threw to first for a double play. A run came in, but that was the last of the scoring for Latrobe.
“Any time you rally, no outs, guy on first — twice — and be able to get out of that, it’s tough to do,” Buzzard said. “It was good to see.”
Hempfield pitchers Tyler Dancu and Jake Anderson limited the Wildcats to five hits — all singles. They each had four strikeouts. Anderson pitched 31⁄3 innings to get the win.
Granatire was the field general for the Spartans.
“Traynor was great tonight,“Buzzard said. “I thought our catcher was awesome. He blocked a lot of balls, he saved us a couple runs and made two or three great throws.”
Hempfield nearly got its insurance run in the fifth when Reno Brasili ripped a two-out single to center. But Griffin Clark, who started on the mound for Latrobe before moving to the outfield, snagged the hit on one hop, galloped ahead and launched a strike to the plate to throw out DiAndreth.
“Rainbows are what everyone oohs and aahs about, but it’s the missiles, those frozen ropes that stop any trail runners from going,” Latrobe coach Matt Basciano said. “That kid was definitely done.”
The gap-shot double a couple of innings later that scored Reed Hipps more than made up for the out DiAndreth made.
“It’s the little things that count every single game,” he said.
Hempfield scored three times in the third, with some help.
IUP recruit Nick DiAndreth’s infield single scored Justin Sliwoski for the first run.
Sliwoski had reached on an error.
Basciano knew the DiAndreths could be double trouble.
“I thought those kids were done,” Basciano said in jest about the DiAndreth twins. “They have been here forever; I’m ready for them to graduate.”
Hipps’ groundout brought in Tyler Wiederstein, and another error allowed Isaiah DiAndreth to reach base and score his brother for a 3-0 advantage.
Clark’s infield hit with the bases loaded scored Ben Shaw, who was hit by a pitch in the bottom of the third.
Latrobe, which defeated Greensburg Salem earlier this week 7-2, used the game as another tune-up for its Section 3-5A opener, which is supposed to be Tuesday night at home against Woodland Hills.
“We tell the kids: it’s an exhibition game,” Basciano said. “It didn’t get us any closer to playoffs, section, and it didn’t drop us any further back. We ask them, ‘What’s your record?’ It’s 0-0. That’s exactly how we take that approach.
“We saw some more good things today. Some things we worked on, built on, from Greensburg Salem (on Monday),” Basciano said. “We still had some negative things. But we’re a young, inexperienced team that’s been stuck inside a good bit. We would have preferred a different outcome, but we were pleased with what we saw.”
Senior Andy Bradford relieved Clark in the fifth.
Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BillBeckner.