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Greensburg-area grads choose to stay close to home at Seton Hill

| Thursday, July 4, 2013, 8:55 p.m.
Evan R. Sanders | Tribune-Review
Hempfield's Hope Pehrson delivers a pitch to a Peters Township batter during the WPIAL Class AAAA consolation game Wednesday, May 29, 2013, at California (Pa.) University of Pennsylvania.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Class AAAA pitcher Zach Martinelli of Hempfield delivers to the plate during the WBCA AAA-AAAA all-star game Sunday, June 9, 2013, at Burkett Field in Robinson.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Greensburg Salem's Zach Voytek (right) looks to control Northampton's Bobby Fehr in their 160-pound match during the opening round on Thursday, March 7, 2013, at the PIAA Class AAA Individual Wrestling Championships at the Giant Center in Hershey. Voytek won by a 5-0 decision.

Over the course of their college searches, Hope Pehrson, Zach Martinelli and Zach Voytek didn't have to go very far to find the perfect fit.

Each was a sports standout at a Greensburg-based high school. All ultimately signed to play at a Greensburg-based college.

Pehrson (softball), Martinelli (baseball) and Voytek (wrestling) were part of this year's recruiting classes at Seton Hill. Pehrson and Martinelli recently graduated from Hempfield and Voytek from Greensburg Salem.

“Recruiting locally for us can only be positive,” said Seton Hill wrestling coach Brian Tucker, who is entering his second season. “Not just with the talent that is seen, but gaining local support will lead to an increase in attendance at matches, help with community engagement, and more acknowledgment for Seton Hill, our wrestling program, and student-athletes in general.”

The Griffins' wrestling roster this past season included one wrestler with a listed hometown of Greensburg (senior 133-pounder Mike Grant). Though Seton Hill's softball team had no Greensburg natives this past spring, sophomore pitcher Christine Henderson is a Ligonier Valley alum.

Seton Hill baseball traditionally has relied on talent in its backyard the most. Its 2013 roster had two Greensburg Salem graduates and two who went to Hempfield.

Martinelli is at least the seventh Hempfield alum who has played for Seton Hill during Marc Marizzaldi's decade as coach.

“We don't necessarily put an emphasis on having to recruit local players, but we do feel the need to recruit the top players in the area — particularly Westmoreland County,” Marizzaldi said. “From a college baseball standpoint, local kids have what we believe is one of the best small college baseball programs in the country right here in Greensburg.”

The Griffins went 42-17 this past season, advancing to an NCAA Division II regional final.

“I wanted to play on a winning baseball team, and I knew they had a really good program there,” said Martinelli, a right-handed pitcher. “They had the major I wanted, which helped out, too, and I knew the coach to be a really nice guy, too.”

Martinelli, who has played on teams with Hempfield alum and current Seton Hill catcher Anthony Fanelli since he was 13, attended Seton Hill's baseball camps when he was younger.

“He has a great arsenal of stuff that we think can get a lot of college hitters out,” Marizzaldi said.

Pehrson also was an accomplished and decorated high school pitcher — “above average speed, accuracy and movement,” Seton Hill softball coach Paul O'Brien said. “A kid that truly battles from the circle.”

Pehrson was part of an early-signee recruiting class that included players from Maryland, New Jersey and California. The roster also has many Western Pennsylvania natives.

“This will always be my recruiting philosophy,” O'Brien said. “All I look for are kids that want to be Griffins. They love Seton Hill and will enthusiastically join our softball family.”

Pehrson said she chose Seton Hill because of the coaching staff and the small-school learning environment. But, she added, “I'm very close to my family, so if I had gone far away for college I would have hated it.”

Being far from home won't be a concern for two-time PIAA Class AAA wrestling medalist Voytek, the all-time wins leader at Greensburg Salem (165).

“I look for him to enter the lineup at 157 pounds and make a positive impact immediately,” Tucker said. “He is a great fit for our program.”

That'd be the case regardless of where Voytek was from. But snagging one of the best from the Westmoreland County wrestling grounds was a point of emphasis for Tucker.

“This was a big step for our wrestling program,” he said.

Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.

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