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Emmaus baseball starts 5-0

There’s hard to find something criticize about the Emmaus baseball team with the way it’s playing. The Hornets are 5-0. The offense is scoring 12 runs a game with a batting average of .413 across the lineup. And the pitching staff is averaging a 1.93 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP.

And head coach Jeremy Haas and the Hornets aren’t complacent or comfortable at this early point in the season. There’s still much to improve on.

“Absolutely not,” Haas said. “Being comfortable is a step toward complacency, and we can’t have that. This group is far too determined for me to ease up. We must maintain our focus on getting one percent better each day.”

Emmaus is coming off dominant wins against Allen (15-0) and Dieruff (17-2) on Friday and Saturday, respectively. The hitting certainly was up to par, but it was the pitching and defense that has been catching Haas’s eye.

Andrew O’Brien pitched the entire four innings in the 15-run mercy-rule victory over the Canaries. He allowed just two hits and struck out six batters on 55 pitches.

A day later, Colin Foley also pitched a solid four innings en route to a shortened-game win. He allowed just two runs on two hits, striking out eight against Dieruff.

“Early in the season our focus is always on pitching and defense,” Haas said. “Our pitchers have been attacking early and forcing opposing teams to hit their way to the lead. And our defense has made the routine plays and some exceptional plays. Our pitching and defense are working well in combination right now.

“Without our normal offseason, it has been a challenge to get our arms up to speed. The guys were getting their work in on their own, but the coaches were unable to be there with them. It’s led to a few more arms issues than usual and limited pitch counts early in the season.”

The offense has followed suit. Emmaus has scored at least seven runs in all five of its games, including at least nine in each of the last four contests.

It also seems to be a different Hornet stepping up when needed. In the shutout against Allen, eight different batters recorded hits. Blake Schantz (3-for-4 with 3 RBIs and 2 runs scored), Braden Waller (1-for-2 with 3 runs scored) and Tyler LePage (1-for-3 with 2 runs scored) led the way against the Canaries.

In the two wins against Dieruff - the other coming last Wednesday via a 9-6 victory - Sam Dietz (3 RBIs), Anthony Viola (2 runs scored, 2 RBIs), Waller (5 runs scored, 4 RBIs), Foley (3 runs scored, 3 RBIs) and O’Brien (4 runs scored, 1 RBI) led the charge.

“After our first three games, I was actually becoming a little frustrated with our lineup,” Haas said. “Our last practice before our most recent Dieruff and Allen games was spent entirely on hitting. We have a group of incredibly talented hitters, so I hold them to a high standard.

“Our guys have answered the challenge the last two games, but must continue to grow and evolve as the season continues. Our lineup has a great blend of contact, power, speed and intelligence.”

Despite the early-season success that has seen Emmaus outscore its opponents 60-15, Haas still has the Hornets levelheaded as the team approaches an important stretch of its season. The Hornets are slated to face Hazleton on Wednesday at Church Lane Park, followed by league games against Whitehall and Freedom on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

“We have had a solid start to our season,” Haas said. “Our players have been able to focus on getting better and competing every day, despite obstacles from Covid and the weather. It is a great start to our season, but we have a tough week coming up. We need to be ready to meet our new challenges head on.”