Depth is key for Planets' success
It's no surprise for Dave Bednar to be included among the WPIAL's top baseball pitchers.
The Mars senior proved it throughout his career, which he capped with another strong performance.
Problem was, Bednar and the Planets ran into another of the WPIAL's best pitchers — Blackhawk's Brendan McKay.
The Cougars posted a 2-0 win over Mars in a WPIAL Class AAA first-round game on Tuesday at North Allegheny. McKay, a junior lefty, limited the Planets to one hit (Bednar's infield single), struck out 16 and walked just one.
“He's just so sharp. He doesn't make any mistakes. He doesn't walk anybody. He has a great breaking ball. He throws hard. He's tough,” Mars coach Brian Hobaugh said. “He's about as legit as they come, but so is Dave Bednar.”
Bednar, a righty, struck out the first six batters and finished with 12. He allowed five hits, walked three and yielded one earned run.
“We knew Dave was going to give us that type of performance. I knew it and he did it,” Hobaugh said. “That just shows how good of a pitcher he is. He knew he was pitching against a great pitcher and he did everything he could do to give us a chance to win. He couldn't have done more.”
Mars got a runner into scoring position in the top of the fourth as Matt Eperesi and Sam Swiatek reached on dropped third strikes. However, the Planets could not advance their runners.
“We had a few guys on base, but we just couldn't get a two-out hit and didn't put enough balls in play,” Hobaugh said. “We didn't put enough pressure on them to make plays and I told my guys that, for us to win the game, we have to make Blackhawk beat us and not McKay beat us. McKay beat us.”
It was the second meeting of the year between the teams. Mars won, 6-4, at Blackhawk on April 3. Bednar and McKay dueled in that contest, too, but were limited.
“McKay only pitched five (innings) and Dave only pitched four,” Hobaugh said. “When they came out, it was 1-1. It was a nonsection game, and we pitched some other kids. We didn't beat him. It was a 1-1 game. ... We didn't beat McKay the first time, but we battled him. We had a lot more guys on base. We had a bloop hit and scored a run.”
Mars closed the season with a 12-8 mark. The Planets finished second in Section 5 at 8-2. Both of their section losses came to champion Hampton.
“We were kind of up and down, at times, this year,” Hobaugh said. “I think our pitching was good. Our top two were really good. Our bats kind of let us down, at times, which was a little disappointing throughout the season. It was a good season.”
Bednar finished with a 4-2 record. He had 66 strikeouts and walked 10 in 44 1⁄3 innings. He recorded a 0.95 earned-run average. Nate Furl, a junior, went 5-1 with 53 strikeouts and 10 walks in 31 innings. He had a 1.81 ERA.
“Nate's a real good pitcher. He'll be back next year, and it'll be his turn. He pitched in some big games this year, but he'll be the man next year,” Hobaugh said.
Catcher Matt Eperesi was second among Planets regulars with a .373 batting average. He had a team-best 25 hits, 22 RBI and nine doubles. The senior pitched 17 2⁄3 innings and had a 2.77 ERA.
Kevin Giallonardo, Zach Edinger, Alex Smith, Ben Erdahl, Caulen Hershman, Eperesi, Swiatek and Bednar are the team's seniors. However, the Planets have 12 juniors on their roster, led by Furl and Colin Stewart, who hit .412.
“We had a lot of good depth. We had a lot of good juniors who didn't get a lot of playing time because we had so much depth this year. They'll all be back next year,” Hobaugh said. “We'll be OK next year. We'll be in the thick of it again, I think.”
Joe Sager is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.