Nytz fills need behind the plate
With catching being a position that’s physically difficult to play, it’s not unusual for injuries to hit and make coaches go to their number-two catcher at some point. But for the top two catchers on a team to go down with injuries on the same night before three innings of a game are even completed is too much for most teams to handle.
For Emmaus, losing two catchers on the same night wasn’t easy, but the Hornets were actually able to find a number-three catcher who may be able to handle the spot the rest of the way.
Senior Keegan Nytz did some catching as a freshman and sophomore for Emmaus, but has been entrenched at second base for the Green Hornets this season.
Nytz has played well defensively and is hitting .289 on the season out of the leadoff spot. Against Allen on Thursday, Nytz was called into emergency service behind the plate. It all started when starter Ian Kauffman hurt his thumb on the last pitch that starter Kellan Tulio threw in the bullpen before the game. In stepped Jadon Diaz, who injured his hip running out a pop fly in the third inning of Emmaus’ 10-0 win over Allen that same night.
“A little rusty at first,” said Nytz of his emergence as the team’s catcher against Allen. “I’m not going to lie, I felt a little slow. Towards the end of the game, it was kind of like riding a bike, so it was good. I was glad that the pitchers came through and were throwing strikes to help me out.”
Nytz pointed out that with Tulio and reliever Braden Waller throwing strikes, his move behind the plate wasn’t as difficult as it could have been. The injuries blurred the fact that Tulio and Waller combined to throw a no-hitter against the Canaries.
“It’s a bit of a hollow win for me,” said Hornet head coach Jeremy Haas. “Losing your two catchers, that’s always difficult. I feel for Kauffman. I feel for Diaz. They’ve worked their butts off all season to be in the stretch run and now they’re not able to do that, but that’s baseball.
“The biggest takeaway for me is guys stepping up and doing their jobs. Tulio did a tremendous job. Waller did a tremendous job and Keegan and Kop [Joseph Koprowicz] did a great job tonight.”
Koprowicz took over for Nytz at second base and was likely more comfortable coming into that position than Nytz was heading behind the plate.
With no word on when or if either catcher will return, Emmaus may be juggling some players around for the rest of the season and into the playoffs. Depth is a part of the key for Emmaus, whose roster features nearly all juniors and seniors, with Waller, a sophomore, being the only underclassman.
“We have a great bench,” Nytz said. “I’ve said since the first day of the season that you could find nine guys off of our bench and put them in a starting lineup at any other school. I am that confident in them. Any one of those guys could be starting and I have every confidence that whatever positions we need to fill, we can fill with these guys.”
Emmaus also has a difficult portion of the schedule to overcome. After beating Allen, the Hornets suffered tough losses to Nazareth and Northampton. Emmaus plays its final home game of the season against Whitehall Wednesday at Community Park. The Hornets then play at Parkland Saturday before finishing up the regular season on Monday against Central Catholic.
The Hornets have locked in a spot in districts and are in the hunt for an EPC playoff spot, currently standing in sixth place for the playoffs, which feature eight teams.
“I think we’re at a good point,” said Nytz. “One of the things that coach Haas always tells us is that we’ve got to ride the waves, whether we’re up or down, we’re going to try to ride the waves as a team. I think right now, we’re at a high point on the wave and we’re just going to keep riding it despite the injuries. We’re going to keep riding this wave and as a team. We’ll handle this.”
With injuries and the postseason looming, the long list of experienced players on the Emmaus roster will be put to the test over the next few weeks.
“We’re going to need depth now more than ever,” said Haas. “Any time that you make a playoff run you’re going to need depth of all kinds, pitching depth, whatever it is. There are guys on this bench that would be starting at other schools and they’re going to get their opportunity.”