Ryan Petras admits golf is not his game.

“I’m not very good at it,” he said.

If there were more hours in a day, the Bethel Park High School sophomore probably would be better at the spot.

“I love to play golf, but I just don’t have the time.”

Petras, indeed, is a busy student-athlete.

For starters, he pulls down a 4.14 GPA in all of his honors classes, among them chemistry and algebra II. He was invited to join the National Honor Society but had to delay installation until next year because of time constraints.

Then there are his sports. He excels in baseball, football and indoor track.

Last spring, he started in right field for BP’s PIAA state championship baseball club. With a .407 batting average, seven doubles, 12 stolen bases, 6 RBI and 15 runs scored, Petras has Bethel Park poised to challenge for the WPIAL title and another state banner. The Black Hawks already have clinched the Section 2 crown in Class 5A.

In the fall, Petras helped the Black Hawks capture a conference championship and reach the WPIAL Class 5A semifinals in football. During that 11-2 campaign, he accumulated 1,437 all-purpose yards and scored 17 touchdowns while earning All-State acclaim as well as co-Offensive Player of the Year honors in the conference.

In the winter, he sprinted his way to a berth in the Adidas Track Nationals. He combined with football and baseball teammates Danari Clacks, Blake Striegel and Jason Nuttridge for second place in the 4x200 relay.

“Ryan is a special young man,” said BP baseball manager Patrick Zehnder. “He gets pulled in many different directions throughout the year but manages a heavy caseload. I marvel at how he is able to handle all that. He never seems to look stressed or overwhelmed.

“Ryan has always been talented, but he has never relied on just talent to be successful. He works extremely hard on and off the field to make sure he is always improving. Whether it is taking extra ground balls, swings in the cage, reps in the weight room, or studying for an upcoming test, there is not a day that he isn’t working to better himself. He is the whole package.”

Northwestern University noticed that recently. Because of interest in his baseball skills, Petras made a verbal commitment to the Big Ten school. He is part of Jim Foster’s first recruiting class for 2025.

“Honestly, the academics are really good and when I finish at Northwestern I will have a great degree,” said Petras, who also entertained interest from Virginia Tech and Pitt.

Petras noted that the Wildcats have a good baseball program now that Foster has arrived as coach. The 2022 Patriot League Coach of the Year, Foster led Army West Point to four conference titles and NCAA tournament appearances before taking the job at Northwestern.

“When I talked to the coaches, I really liked them,” Petras said. “Coach (Foster) is rebuilding the program from the ground up and I have a good opportunity to start as a freshman.”

Petras said his goals are to help Northwestern win Big Ten championships and make deep playoff runs, advancing to the College World Series. For himself, he entertains first-team Big Ten accolades.

Zehnder predicts success for Petras because of his work ethic and ability to juggle heavy workloads.

“Northwestern is a great fit for Ryan," he said. "Not only does he excel athletically but he is so well rounded as a student and a person. He has the work ethic and maturity to manage what will likely be a strenuous athletic and academic workload.

“Ryan has unbelievable speed and good pop (in his bat). He has a mature approach at the plate, plays great defense, has a strong arm and quick release. With his elite talent and work ethic, there is no reason why he can’t be very successful pretty quickly.”

As a high school sophomore, Zehnder pointed out that while he cannot wait to see Petras compete in the Big Ten, that is still multiple years away. “We are definitely fortunate to have Ryan at Bethel Park for two more years,” he said.

Petras plans to make the best of his remaining scholastic seasons, especially since he has found his permanent spot at shortstop on defense and as the lead-off hitter on offense in the BP lineup. As a freshman, he started in right field for the 2022 state champions and maintained a .410 on-base percentage. He scored 13 runs and ranked second on the team with 12 stolen bases.

“Ryan is an absolute spark plug on offense,” Zehnder said. “He’s been a great leadoff hitter.

“Ryan is also the prototypical middle infielder,” Zehnder added. “He has great agility and lateral quickness, plus has a very strong and accurate arm with a quick release. He would still be a great outfielder, but his game and skill set are best for the infield. He did a great job in the outfield last year for us with little to no experience in that position.

“While he is so athletically gifted, Ryan also has just as impressive of a baseball IQ, which enables him to play anywhere defensively, bat anywhere in the lineup offensively, and put pressure on teams on the base paths with his speed and feel for the game.”

Petras inherited a natural feel for athletics. His father, Dave, played football and threw the shot put in track at Geneva College and Baldwin. His mother, Nancy, was also a Highlander. A sprinter, she competed in track at Duquesne University.

Petras said he fell in love with baseball when he started playing at age 5. He and his dad were always doing something with a bat and baseball. He gravitated to football because al his friends played then picked up track to maintain speed and stay in shape between seasons.

All three are complementary, he says.

“Track helps football because the name of the game is speed and you are trying to avoid people. Track helps with stolen bases and I love stealing bases. Plus, as a lead-off hitter, you want to get on base, steal a base and score a run. That helps get momentum for the team,” Petras explained. “Football definitely helps baseball, especially with adversity. On Friday nights, everyone is watching you and there is pressure. Because of football, I feel that I am more prepared in baseball.”

Zehnder sees the benefits of multiple sports for Petras as well. They especially help him mentally.

“Ryan enjoys being as active as possible. I think he would go crazy if he wasn’t engaged in a sport for all seasons,” he said.

“Football has been great for him to gain strength and agility in that setting. He already knows his way around the weight room and how to take care of his body as a result,” Zehnder said. “Indoor track helped him clean up his running form and enhanced his straight line speed. To do what he did in his first year ever running track this winter is amazing. It’s another testament to his ability, work ethic, coachability and time management.”

With playoffs approaching with its sometimes long travel trips, Petras will again be pressed for time. However, he embraces the challenges a head.

“Winning the state championship was the highlight in my career. So I definitely want to help the team win another title. We are coming together as a team and sticking together is the key. As for my contributions, I think it will take my whole game – fielding, running the bases and hitting – to help the team.”

Almanac Sports Editor

An award-winning journalist, Eleanor Bailey has been employed by Observer Publishing Company since 1982. She is the sports editor at The Almanac and a contributor for the Observer-Reporter.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.