Red Land's 1-2 punch of Zach Newmyer, Jeremy Hileman leading PIAA baseball charge
By Eric F. Epler | firstname.lastname@example.org
on June 05, 2014 7:30 a.m.
They say one unshakable pitcher can deliver a division title and two can lead a program to district gold. If it takes three to win a state championship, well, Red Land is hoping to establish new ground rules.
Ever since the Patriots hiked up their britches following a disastrous 2-5 start to the season, skipper Nate Ebbert has deployed a two-man rotation who has the Mid-Penn product breathing in Thursday’s Class AAAA quarterfinal round.
In an ironic twist, the Patriots (16-9) return to the scene where their last deep PIAA run ended in 2008, Muhlenberg MS in Laureldale, where District 1 No. 3 Conestoga (16-7) awaits. First pitch is 4 p.m.
“Honestly, I don’t know how they do it. They are holding it together pretty good and we’ve played very few clean games behind them,” Ebbert said about top hurlers Zach Newmyer and Jeremy Hileman. “It’s really a tribute to how well our team works together.”
What right-handers Newmyer and Hileman have done through 25 games is pretty impressive. Consider these nuggets: the Patriots have just one hitter – catcher Ben Snyder (.388) – hitting better than .350 and average just over 3½ runs per game.
Jeremy Hileman, shown here during the 2013 Big 26 Classic, has joined fellow RHP Zach Newmyer as Red Land’s top pitching tandem.(PennLive photo)
Add in rather loose play defensively and you start to appreciate the work of Ebbert’s top tandem.
Newmyer (6-4, 0.95 ERA) was the de facto No. 1 coming in, and Monday’s work against Commonwealth rival State College bumped his strikeout total to 97 in more than 81 innings.
Hileman (8-3, 1.27 ERA), who will start against Conestoga Thursday, has done little except ring up 75 strikeouts in 71 2/3 innings. Combined the duo has allowed just 24 earned runs, accounting for all but two of Red Land’s 16 victories.
“[Hileman] really worked his butt off all last summer and winter. He came in really strong, and I think playing basketball really helped him, too,” Ebbert said. “We knew he had good stuff but the question was could he pound the zone with all three of his pitches?”
Of course, both pitchers have benefitted from Snyder’s presence behind the plate. The four-year starter has been calling pitches for the last two seasons.
“The defense he’s played behind the plate has been the difference in many games this year,” Ebbert said. “With Hileman’s breaking ball, he gets away with it every once in a while.”
Against Conestoga, Hileman will certainly be tested by top sluggers Austin Shirley, Ryan Ogren and Tom Richter, three plus-.400 hitters in the heart of John Vogan’s batting order. However, the Pioneers will not have ace Jake Bufo on the mound. Bufo was front and center in Conestoga’s opening-round win over Cedar Cliff on Monday, firing a five-hitter with eight strikeouts.
It’s also unclear if Vogan will have North Carolina commit Brendon Little available. Little has been limited in the postseason with a sore shoulder.
Thursday’s winner will play either WPIAL champ Seneca Valley or District 9 champion DuBois in Monday’s semifinal round.