Bethel Park bounces Hempfield from playoffs
Hempfield scored first, but Bethel Park rallied in the fourth inning and defeated the Spartans, 7-2, in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAAA baseball playoffs Friday at the John DiVirgilo Sports Complex in Rostraver Township.
"I give their pitcher, Andy Kountz, credit; he kept our guys off-balance," Hempfield coach Denny Little said. "I give (Bethel Park's) defense more credit; they were in the position to make the plays and they were ready. They played fundamental defense. "Seven-to-two is not a real big lead in a high school game. At any time, we could have come back."
Hempfield scored its first run without getting a hit. Patrick Kohl walked, moved to second on a passed ball and advanced to third on a balk. He scored on an error.
Bethel Park responded in the third inning. Jake Kalkbrenner hit a leadoff double down the third base line -- the first hit of the game for either team. Alex Tarr laid down a bunt single, moving Kalkbrenner to third. Kalkbrenner scored on a grounder to second base.
Matt Leviseur scored Bethel Park's next run on a passed ball in the top of the fourth.
"(Kountz) just battles. He's done it all year," Bethel Park coach Jim Rider. "He battles and he keeps the other team off-balance. He keeps us in ball games."
In the bottom of the fourth, Kyle McCullough hit a two-out double for Hempfield. Alex Naggy flew out to end the inning.
Bethel Park scored four of its seven runs in the fifth inning. Jimmy Meyer led off with a bunt single. Dan Cybulski hit a double to center field. Leviseur doubled to drive in both runners.
After Naggy relieved Hempfield starting pitcher John Veach-Dixon, Leviseur moved to third on a wild pitch. Naggy walked Matt Carson and got Ed Kessler out on a pop up to right field, then walked Kalkbrenner. Tarr delivered a two-run single to give Bethel Park a 5-1 lead.
"We relaxed a little bit and we had some base runners, and our guys brought them in," Rider said. "And that was big."
Greg Meisner had a run-scoring single for Hempfield in the fifth, but Bethel Park added an insurance run in the top of the sixth.
"Meisner, of course, had some offense for us, and (Steve) Bills had some good at bats," Little said. "With our batting lineup, you never know what's going to happen.
"Kyle McCullough, our eight hitter, had a big double. These are tough kids that aren't going to go down easy; even in the last inning we went down swinging."
"That is pretty much our team; everyone picks each other up," Rider said. "It's a true team; there are no great superstars. It's different guys in each game that step up. It's nice."
Bethel Park moves on to the second round of the Class AAAA playoffs, facing Section 3 rival Canon-McMillan.