Foxes Primed for Deeper Playoff Run

The Foxes baseball team just clinched its first section championship in nine years, although it came after a tight race that ended in a four-way tie among the Foxes, Franklin Regional, Penn-Trafford, and Plum. Sharing the WPIAL 5A Section 1 title wasn’t ideal, but no one is complaining, especially considering the team’s first-round bye and second-seed.

With seven section all-stars and carrying the program’s best record in years, coach Jim Hastings said the. Foxes feel well-prepared. He acknowledges they had been prepared for a shared title, given the quality of the teams in Section 1.

Now, the team’s focus shifts to surpassing last year’s quarterfinal defeat and making a deeper playoff run.

“We had a really good season and played a lot of good baseball against a lot of good teams,” says the coach. “The guys have really come around and, in general, we have had the toughness to overcome adversity.”

Leading the Foxes are all-section players juniors Jeremy Haigh (first team outfield) and Antonio LeDonne (first team infield); seniors Ben DeMotte (second team infield), Troy Susnak (second team infield), Christian Wilkinson (second team pitcher); and honorable mentions Mitchell Epstein (catcher) and sophomore Blake Krushinski (pitcher). Jeremy, Troy, and Mitchell are two-time all-section players.

Other key players whose skills and efforts are playing a significant role this season are seniors Ryan Inglis and Logan Hoffman, juniors Kris Bandurski and Franco Pistella, and sophomore Joey Geller.

Jeremy’s selection as an elite outfielder only tells a small part of his story. He is one of the top pitchers in the WPIAL. He’s pitched 33 innings for a 3-1 record, recorded 42 strikeouts, and holds a 1.05 earned run average. His hitting, greatly improved over last season, has produced a .436 batting average, and he recorded more extra-base hits in the first couple weeks of this season than he did all of last year.

Jeremy believes there are several reasons why the team has done so well this year.

“I think the coach-to-player and player-to-player communication is much better than it has been,” says the athlete, who will spend his summer traveling around the country for baseball. “We have emerging leaders in each class and more depth to the lineup than in previous years, and our team gained more confidence as the year progressed. We were also blessed to have nearly our entire lineup and bullpen returning this year.”

Playoffs can add a new layer of tension, but Jeremy is unfazed.

“I don’t feel much pressure,” he says. “Our team is solid all the way through. They have my back and I have theirs. Baseball is a game of ups and downs, and the more teams have tried to pitch around me when I hit has given other guys a chance to shine. Baseball is a mental game, and every time I step on the field, I tell myself I’m the best man there so I can play confidently and to the best of my ability.

“I have confidence in the other pitchers on the team and know that they’ll keep us in the game, so I don’t mind not pitching. Even though I can’t pitch every game, I can still play my part by hitting or fielding.”

Senior Justin Ling, a two-year varsity relief pitcher, is also among the team’s strong group of players. He’s pitched 15 innings, has a 2-0 record, and 13 strikeouts with zero errors. He says sharing the title might not have been what they had hoped for, but it’s still an achievement.

“It does sting a little bit that we do share it with multiple teams, but we have accomplished something that our school hasn’t done in nine years,” says the relief pitcher. He says there are a few loose ends they need to tie up before the quarterfinals begin Monday, May 20.

“I feel like we are ready for the playoffs, mentally and physically, but there are some things we need to improve upon,” Justin says candidly. “Although we do put together runs, we still need to execute when we have runners in scoring position.”

He is certain he and his teammates can get the job done.

“We have a great group of guys who are all very supportive and committed, and this results in great team chemistry,” says Justin.

Jeremy’s sentiments echo those of Justin.

“Last year showed us there is great chemistry and talent on our team,” he says. “We need to remember we can beat anyone when we play hard and clean. Our greatest chance at success and a long playoff run is to continue competing with ourselves, pushing each other in practice, but also using the bye week to rest and prepare for playoffs.”