Hampton soccer standout thrives in return to diamond

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Saturday April 30, 2022 | 10:01 a.m


When Luke Staggers picked up a baseball bat for the first time in five years, pretty much what anyone would expect happened.

Not much of anything.

“I don’t think I touched a ball at all in practice one,” said the Hampton senior. “I was worried after my first few swings because I wasn’t sure if it would ever come back.”

But he’s finally back in the swing of things.

Staggers, an all-section forward for Hampton’s WPIAL and PIAA champion boys’ soccer team, has returned to baseball for the first time since seventh grade and is making an immediate impression.

In eight games through April 24, the left fielder hit .591 with 11 stolen bases for the Talbots (6-0 in Section 2-5A, 6-3 overall), who were having their best start in section play since 2014.

“I didn’t expect what I’ve seen so far,” said coach Kellen Wheeler. “He worked as hard as he could. It’s absolutely amazing that he could come in and do what he did.

Staggers said, “It’s going a lot better than I thought it would.”

Staggers started playing the sport at age 3 — “I really loved playing baseball,” he said — but he quit in seventh grade to focus on his other sporting passion, soccer.

It turned out to be a successful choice. He helped lead Hampton to a 23-1 record last fall. The Talbots defeated West Allegheny 1-0 to claim the program’s first WPIAL title since 2011, and Staggers assisted the PIAA with the only goal in a 1-0 win over Archbishop Wood on November 20 at Hersheypark Stadium -Win Class 3A crown.

“It was a dream come true,” said Staggers, leaning towards Delaware and possibly approaching the men’s soccer team.

But as the months went by — Staggers didn’t ski — he realized just how much he missed the competitiveness and benefits of team sports. When his good friend Cam Marshalwitz, the Talbots’ left-handed ace, suggested that Staggers return to baseball while on summer vacation in Hilton Head, SC, Staggers agreed.

“He’s tried to get me to play before,” Staggers said. “But this time it really made a lot of sense because I don’t play cup football anymore so I have time.

“I didn’t realize how much I missed the feeling of being on the court and playing high school sports. That definitely influenced my decision.”

Wheeler was delighted with the return of Staggers. With his speed and athleticism, Staggers immediately earned a regular place in left field, where he played ball cleanly. The 6-foot-1, 170-pound right-hander has also become more comfortable off the plate, striking out from the No. 9 position.

“I think he might be the best No. 9 hitter I can ever imagine,” Wheeler said. “And he’s done a fantastic job in that area.”

The highlight of the season so far has been a 17-3 win at Woodland Hills on March 30 when Staggers won 2 for 3 on his first home run since middle school.

“It was just unbelief,” he said. “I didn’t know it was over the fence so I sprinted as hard as I could. I looked up and saw the left fielder stop running and I thought, ‘No way did that go over the fence.’ I didn’t believe it until I got back into the dugout.”

Wheeler said Staggers’ rush out of the box was the most impressive part of the home run.

“When the ball landed, it was on second base,” Wheeler said. “He looked at the referee and the referee gave him the home run signal. The smile on his face was just priceless.”

Despite being a freshman varsity baseball player, Staggers tries to pass on to his teammates the experience of playing on a PIAA championship team and what that means. He also motivated the Talbots with his success despite being five years away from Diamond.

“Every time he scores, every time he makes a good play on the field, basically everyone on the team is like, ‘This is amazing,'” Wheeler said. “He hasn’t played in so long, and he goes out there and just does it.”

Tags: Hampton

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