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The Pine Forge Senior Babe Ruth team enjoyed an undefeated regular season in the Chest-Mont League, then followed up by sweeping through the state tournament with four straight wins to earn the Indians’ second straight state championship.
That means what they will participate in the Mid-Atlantic Tournament that begins this week in New York. The team is ready to go in the Mid-Atlantics after going two-and-out last season.
Manager Rich Zuber feels that the kids are working hard and the commitment is there. That may also explain why their overall record is 24-2-1 for the season going into the Mid-Atlantic Tournament.
Zuber knew that he had a lot of talent returning this year along with two new players who had a lot of playoff experience in Matty Purnell and Austin Heimbach to the roster. However, the big question was how would the pitching hold up during the season.
“I expected to do well, and I always expect to do well,” said Rich Zuber. “I’ve been very pleased with the fact that they have progressed as well as they have. The pitching has come along well and the defense has been very good.”
Knowing that pitching could be a big question mark this year, seeing the pitching do so well is was nice surprise for Zuber and his coaching staff. All five starters are throwing well.
According to Zuber, one of the big strengths for this year’s team is the defense. The other strength according to the manager is the kids being able to get along and working together. Team support has been huge and has contributed to the team’s success this year.
Pine Forge gets players from a couple of different areas along with their central nucleus. As experience coaches at Pine Forge, they don’t feel that’s a disadvantage, but that they have a philosophy and everyone buys into it. When the players all buy in, Zuber feels that it doesn’t take long for them to work together and work for the common goal.
Returning from last year’s team are Tyler and Ethan Emel, Adam Eshleman, Bryce and Brent Deiter, Alex Cartacki, Danny Klinehenn, Dave Blythe, Jake Kraus, Billy Dugan, and Nick Miller.
“We got defense and timely hitting from them,” said Zuber. “Ethan moved from the infield to the outfield. He has adjusted very well in the outfield. We needed Tyler to be consistent hitting out of the number three slot and he has done just that.
“Adam is our shortstop. We look for defense from him and hitting in the number five spot in the line-up. Bryce (Deiter) is our catcher.”
Brent Deiter, Alex Cartacki and Danny Klinehenn have anchored the pitching staff.
Besides the new additions of Heimbach and Purnell, Tony Casper, Shane Blaizer, Patrick Mellon, Craig Eidle and Ryan Black have made impacts on the team.
“Austin gives us good quality depth in our pitching core,” said Zuber. “Matt and Austin bring experience at the plate and are clutch hitters. Matt is very good lead-off hitter and Austin anchors the number four slot. Matt brings a level of experience (a sparkplug) and dedication to the game of baseball.
“Tony gives us a second catcher and he’s very reliable and defensively strong. We’re very fortunate to have two very good catchers.”
Zuber has some very simple expectations as the team headed into the Mid-Atlantic Tournament.
“We want them to play hard, get good pitching, play good defense and get timely hitting,” said Zuber. “You never know when you’re going to come across a hot pitcher, or whatever the case might be. If I keep my expectations along the lines of defense, pitching and timely hitting, we’ll be fortunate enough to win.”
After winning states last year and playing in mids, the urge to go back is very high and something that has helped to drive them during the state tournament.=
“For the kids who are returning and the kids with tournament play experience, they all have the desire to do well,” said Zuber.”
Pine Forge has a strong program and they continue to get stronger. Zuber and his assistant coaches besides himself, Andy Duffy, Bob Houck, Chad Mackey, Rob Gallaway and Luke Hoffman, all have a lot to do with the program’s success.
This week they will all have a chance to make one more forward state in the program’s progress. Just making it to the Mid-Atlantic Tournament is an accomplishment, but they are looking for more than just that.
Once they get that first Mid-Atlantic win, who knows what will happen then.