The Pine Forge Senior Babe Ruth Red baseball team is off to another good start. And why not, Manager Rich Zuber has a very talented group of kids returning from last year’s team. “The team is looking like a team,” said Zuber. “Over the years you know how heavy I am into the team concept. There is no one player who makes a team. Therefore, this group is playing just exactly the way I want them to and that’s as a team.”
The team is undefeated in the early going and winning by big margins. So far things are going even better than expected.
Pine Forge is hosting the Senior Babe Ruth Mid-Atlantic tournament July 31 through August 4. In addition, they host the Senior Babe Ruth State Tournament as well. Zuber feels that these are reachable expectations. This is a team that could win both of those tournaments and that is the goal.
“I think the kids have the ability,” said Zuber. “If they reach their potential, they can reach those goals at states and mids.”
This is a very experienced team, a team that knows what’s expected of them from their coach. Of the 15 players on the team, over half of them have played for Zuber for more than two years and some have played for Pine Forge for four years.
“It’s our last year of all of us being together,” said Brent Deiter. “We went to regionals last year and the year before.We’ve been there two years in a row and everyone’s ready to go further this year”
“It’s a great group of kids, we all know each other so long we get along,” said Tyler Emel.
One of the strengths of this team is it’s defense. Errors are rare for them and that will keep them in every game.
“You always build on defense,” said Zuber. “Our defense is very strong and our hitting is as well. The kids swing at good pitches.”
Zuber gives credit to two of his assistant coaches that work with the pitchers in Andy Duffy and Bob Houck.
“That will be one of the key things for the team, the development of our pitchers,” said Zuber. “To compete at any level, you have to have good pitching. You never know what you have until you get them on the mound. That’s what we’re doing.”
“We’ve been there two years in a row and everyone’s ready to go further this year,” said Deiter.
Houck sees how much of a close knit group they are. He feels that’ssomething that will help them during the season. “With this line-up, there’s not really a weak spot in it,” said Houck “The pressure isn’t on a couple of guys to carry the load. If someone has a bad game, someone can step in. That’s one of the really neat things. We’re solid one through nine.”
Houck is happy with the progress of the pitchers so far, but he knows that the only problem is that the pitchers they have didn’t throw in the spring.
“They are just getting work now,” said Houck. “The same thing with the Eidle kid coming out of Oley, he didn’t pitch much up there. We’re really at a disadvantage trying to rush guys through it and getting them ready to pitch. We don’t have any pitchers who pitched during the high school season. If they can get the work, we’ll be good.
“We’re hosting Mid-Atlantics, but we want to win the league and state playoffs. We’re not under any time frame to get them ready. We don’t want them coming up sore. Our goal is to peak and have everyone ready by the league playoffs.”
Houck has a lot of guys fighting for three or four pitching spots and that’s a concern. The problem is that he can’t get them enough work. He gets them bullpen work, but that’s not the same as going out and pitching in a game.”
Zuber has players who played high school baseball, along with two kids who played college ball as well.
The college players returning are Austin Heimbach and Tyler Emel. Zuber feels getting that college ball experience will help them both.
“That’s going to be a very big help for this team,” said Zuber. “We’re playing in some tournaments, including a Berkshire tournament with some better teams. We are also attempting to run our own tournament. Plus, we’re playing some non-league games against some better teams. None of this is to take anything away from the league.”
the league split into two divisions this year. Each team plays every team twice in their division, and every team once in the other division. That means Pine Forge will play the better teams in the league more often. Zuber felt that was a good move because it provided teams with more competitive games.
“It’s not about beating teams up, it’s about playing good baseball,” said Zuber. “By playing better teams in your division helps Zuber and his team prepare for the league playoffs and beyond.
The Indians finished very stron last year in Syracuse at the Mid-Atlantic tournament. They want to prove something yet again this year. Houck knows that it was a good experience for them.
“They saw the teams that beat us and they know that they weren’t that much better than us,” said Houck. “Their goal this year is to go further. That’s what they’re all about.”