As is the case with many coaches heading into the WPIAL baseball season, Trinity’s Scott Henson is faced with replacing a plethora of talent from last year’s playoff team. The Hillers lost seven of eight starting position players and all but 24 1/3 innings of pitching.
Fortunately for Henson, he has a starting pitcher to take over the No. 1 spot in the rotation who threw 20 1/3 of those innings and is headed to Waynesburg to continue his baseball career. Senior Noah Lolley struck out 17 batters last season and finished with a 3.44 ERA as Trinity’s primary starter for non-section games.
Lolley will be counted on to help the Hillers reach the WPIAL playoffs, where they defeated Hampton in the first round last season before being eliminated by West Allegheny.
“It’s huge because if he goes out there and eats up some innings, it will help the rest of our rotation,” Henson said. “I love the way he works. If you play the game of baseball, you want to play in the field behind Noah because he catches the ball and he pitches it. He isn’t waiting around for anything and he’s standing on the rubber when the ball comes back to him.”
Last season, Trinity won three of its final four Section 3-AAA games to garner the fourth playoff spot and finish with a 9-8 overall record. With a dramatic overhaul taking place in Henson’s starting lineup, he will be looking to four juniors and five sophomores to establish roles, but it is the group’s flexibility that could help ease the departure of 12 seniors from last year’s team.
Eight of the nine underclassmen on Henson’s roster can field multiple positions, which will allow Trinity to mix and match its lineup in a section that features perennial powerhouses Keystone Oaks and Chartiers Valley.
The most notable player who offers Henson lineup flexibility is junior catcher and shortstop Guy Markley, who transferred from Wash High. He brings a steady presence to the Hillers’ lineup and has the advantage of already being familiar with Trinity’s players. Markley has played with some his new teammates in the youth leagues.
“It’s a really good to be able to shuffle things around,” Henson said. “We’ve got to put the puzzle together. We’ve got some nice pieces and the kids have baseball talent. We’re looking for some good things.”
Trinity will get its first shot at replicating last season’s success next weekend when the Hillers travel to Myrtle Beach, S.C., for the Cal Ripken Tournament. While the slate of games will merely be exhibition contests, Henson, like other WPIAL baseball coaches making the trip south, will take the opportunity to assess his team’s talent.
“I like my team, that’s for sure, but we are inexperienced,” Henson said. “We lost seven out of eight position players. Everything else is up in the air. Competition really helps out a lot. There are a lot of question marks and it will be nice to get some of them answered.”
The Lions were expected to be one of the top teams in Class AAA this season after finishing with a 10-8 record last year and reaching the WPIAL playoffs as the third-place team in Section 3.
That was until South Fayette head coach James Barton lost his two starting pitchers before preseason workouts began. Senior Jacob Quattro was expected to be the ace of the Lions’ pitching staff, but he suffered a torn ACL in January while riding a dirt bike. Senior Zach Walker, who helped South Fayette’s football team to the Class AA state championship and just finished a successful wrestling season, decided not to play baseball.
“Things took a turn for the worst before they even got started,” Barton said. “That’s a huge blow. Things have to work out and my pitchers have to get me some innings. My goals aren’t any less. Jake was huge. With Zach, we would have still had some depth, but with him being gone as our No. 3 hitter, that is huge. You can’t replace that but you have to make up for it somehow.”
The Highlanders struggled last season by finishing last in the section with a 2-14 overall mark and 0-10 against league opponents. The Highlanders graduated 10 seniors and will rely on a young group for a bounce-back season.
The Raiders’ two wins in last year came against McGuffey, but Waynesburg only lost five seniors.
The Rams were 4-12 last year with only one win in Section 4.