Hempfield baseball taking place among section powers
Because of the prolonged inclement weather, the baseball season is still very young.
But if the first several games have proven anything, it's that there may be a changing of the guard in Section 2-AAAA.
Hempfield, led by a wealth of pitching and hitting talent, is off to a 5-0 start.
The Spartans have recorded three key sections wins, including dominating wins over Kiski Area and Norwin, as well as a 7-6 triumph over Penn-Trafford on Monday.
Coach Tim Buzzard's squad defeated defending section champion Norwin, 10-0, and also blanked a solid Kiski Area squad by the same score.
The victory over Norwin ended the Knights' two-year regular season undefeated streak.
After five games, the Spartans have outscored opponents, 49-15.
Hempfield has been fueled by two Division I prospects: junior outfielder Joey DeFloria and senior pitcher Zack Martinelli.
In the victory over Norwin, Martinelli tossed a one-hit shutout, and DeFloria blasted a three-run home run.
DeFloria (5-foot-10, 180 pounds) is off to a torrid start at the plate, batting .555. He also has drawn seven walks and has four stolen bases.
“Joey has a ton of ability,” Buzzard said. “He has just tremendous discipline at the plate and very quick bat speed. He's OK taking walks and getting on base. He's really got a lot of power.”
DeFloria is also an outstanding center fielder.
According to Hempfield coaches, he's been clocked in the range of 6.6 seconds in the 60-yard dash and has a rocket arm.
Several college, and even some pro scouts, have taken notice.
“He's only a junior,” Buzzard said.
“But he has all the tools. He's receiving a good deal of Division I interest. He's only going to continue to improve and get better. I've had several programs asking for schedules to take a look at him.”
Martinelli, meanwhile, has continued his dominant ways on the mound.
At 6-1, 190, he is an imposing pitcher for batters to face. So far this season he is 1-0 with eight strikeouts and a 0.00 ERA after eight innings.
“He's got great stuff,” Buzzard said.
“He's got four solid pitches and his fastball has been in the 84-87 range. He also has really developed his off-speed pitches and really has just continued to get better each year. He's really matured into a front-line starter.”
Both players, according to Buzzard, are role models for the program.
“They are two guys who work exceptionally hard,” he said. “They are both highly competitive kids and are very intense. They are examples of players putting the time in during the offseason, and both are extremely team-oriented. They are both great leaders.”
Despite the hot start, Buzzard knows there's a lot of baseball to play. He doesn't want his team to buy too much into the early hype.
“It's a nice start,” he said. “We didn't expect it. We had some things go right and made plays. I've told the guys we've got a long, long way to go. I still don't think we've played a complete game yet. We're doing well, but we haven't fully clicked yet.”
Brian Hunger is a freelance writer.