By: Ray Fisher
Friday, March 15, 2019 | 7:49 PM
Brentwood’s baseball team was hit hard by graduation last spring. Only one senior and two other starters return.
“I guess you could say this is a rebuilding year,” coach Greg Perdziola said. “We are very young and inexperienced at the varsity level. With that being said, I still feel we are talented enough to compete for a playoff spot.”
Brentwood has advanced to the WPIAL quarterfinals in each of the past three years. During that time, the Spartans won 33 of 47 regular-season games and were section runners-up once.
Brentwood finished 11-7 last year, including 1-1 in the WPIAL Class 2A playoffs. The Spartans were a playoff qualifier for a fourth consecutive season.
Brandon Griener, who catches and pitches, is the lone senior. A two-year starter behind the plate, he hit .408 with 18 RBIs last season.
“He is one of the best defensive catchers I have ever had here at Brentwood,” Perdziola said. “He had a solid junior year.”
“My expectation is for us to make it back to the playoffs to continue our appearance streak,” Griener said. “Our strength is our defense. Even though we lost most of our starting lineup from last year, I believe our team is still well rounded defensively.
“As far as being the only senior, I have confidence in my teammates to step up this year. I want to lead my team back to the playoffs for the fifth straight year as well as be the best teammate and player I can be.”
Brentwood’s other returning starters are juniors Jayneil Latham (OF/P) and Zach Keib (IF/P). Latham, who will start in center field, hit .460 and had 17 RBIs last season. Keib played all four infield positions but likely will be at shortstop.
“The other positions will be determined from competition at practice,” Perdziola, in his 18th season, said. “At this point with a young team, our focus is on fundamentals. Our practices are simple: Make the routine play. Hit the cutoff man. Put the ball in play, and throw strikes.”
Sophomores Brendan Wertz and Josh Griener and freshman Kyle Keener are vying for playing time at second base and shortstop. Junior Matt Veatch, and sophomores Riley Brendel and Mike Guckes are competing for playing time at first and third.
Aidan Davis and Luke Bauer are junior outfielders, and Lucas Huntley (OF/1B), Ryan Challinor (OF/IF), Jase Keib (C/IF), Kevin McCleary (C/IF) and Keener are top freshman prospects.
The pitching staff will be led by Brandon Griener, Latham and Zach Keib. The trio combined to post a 4-2 record with 37 strikeouts in 34 innings.
Griener compiled a 3-0 record with 16 strikeouts in 10 innings. Latham was 1-1 with nine strikeouts in 15 innings, and Keib was 0-1 with 12 strikeouts in nine innings.
“The rest of the staff is still a work in progress,” Perdziola said. “I have seen some good things from our freshmen. They all can throw but just need to learn how to pitch.
“Hopefully, we get some nice weather, so we can play our nonsection games and get some much-needed experience.”
The Spartans went 10-4 in section play last year and played nine games in 12 days at the end of the regular season, winning seven times to secure their playoff berth.
In the playoffs, Brentwood beat Chartiers-Houston, 8-2, and lost to Neshannock, 6-2.
Brentwood is a member of Section 3-2A this season, along with Apollo-Ridge, Jeannette, Riverview, Serra Catholic and Seton LaSalle.
The Spartans open section play April 8 at Riverview.