SOUTH ABINGTON TWP. — The Abington Heights baseball team fell one win short of its ultimate goal of capturing a state championship in 2015.
Despite the loss of several key players, including the club’s top two pitchers Tyler Ksiazek, who is now playing for Division 1 Monmouth University and Zach Manasek, the Comets could remain among the top contenders in District 2 Class 3A this year.
The Comets must also replace first baseman Matt McDonald, shortstop Jimmy Fayocavitz and outfielder Eric Salerno, who all graduated, and catcher Zach Campbell, who moved out of the area.
Abington Heights has four returning starters, but a few are adjusting to new positions.
Senior Sam Arnold will move from third base to shortstop. Senior Zach Spangenberg will move from second base to third base. Junior Colin McCreary returns in center field and senior Peter Nolan is back in right field. Junior Luke Fayocavitz will also see time in right field.
Seniors Pat Kelly and Matt Hughes, junior Ben Vale, and freshman James Myers are working at catcher.
Hughes, Nolan and junior Jake Swank are in the mix at first base.
Juniors Ryan Harvey and Ryan Eckersley are competing for time at second base.
Juniors Tom Rothenberger and Anthony Duboski will likely split time in left field.
McCreary, Harvey, Nolan, Arnold, Swank, sophomore Nick Termini, and junior Colin Huggler are expected to serve as the team’s main pitchers. Due in a change in the league schedule this year, Abington Heights head coach Bill Zalewski stressed the importance of having multiple players who can play the position.
“With the new three-game series, you need a lot of pitchers to give you some innings,” Zalewski said.
Zalewski believes consistent defensive play will be one of the team’s biggest strengths.
“Even early on, in a couple scrimmages, it’s definitely been very good,” he said.
He also feels the upperclassmen will help hold the team together throughout the season.
“We have very good leadership back,” Zalewski said. “Guys like Arnold, Spangenberg, McCreary and Kelly have taken on the role of the seniors who graduated which is huge.”
Zalewski expects Scranton Prep and Valley View to provide the toughest competition within Lackawanna League Division 1 play.
The Comets defeated Valley View, 4-3, to win their third consecutive District 2 Class 3A title last season.
Lions inexperienced, but talented
Lackawanna Trail returns just three starters from last year’s squad that finished with a 10-5 record, but head baseball coach Todd Peters believes the team has the potential to be competitive in Lackawanna League Division 4 play.
The Lions must replace six starters: shortstop/pitcher Liam Dougherty, third baseman/pitcher Jason Guthrie, catcher Jordan Hannon, center fielder/pitcher Vic Mallory, right fielder Jared Phillips and infielder/pitcher Cooper Rosiak.
Senior Nick Rolka returns as an infielder/pitcher, junior Tyler Baltrusaitis returns as an infielder/outfielder/pitcher and junior Thomas Huffsmith is back as an outfielder/pitcher.
Junior Ethan Oswald is expected to see time at second base. Sophomore Shawn Jones will likely play first base. Sophomore DJ Klinges should contribute as a outfielder/pitcher. Freshman Noah Coleman should see time as a pitcher/infielder/catcher. Freshman Nathan Rolka may see time as a pitcher/infielder, freshman Jordan Edwards may contribute as a catcher/outfielder, and sophomores Thomas Kohinsky and Griffin Holmes will play in the outfield.
“We have three young pitchers (Klinges, Coleman and Nathan Rolka) who I think can improve and be effective in our league,” Peters said. “Even though they are really young, they can be pretty good.
“We talked about how young we are as a team,” Peters added. “Our goal is to improve each week, so by the end of the year we’re playing our best baseball. Our young guys will have a chance to play every day and learn the game. I’ve been very happy with their hustle and pleasantly surprised with their abilities.”
Peters expects Nick Rolka, Huffsmith and Baltrusaitis to lead the way at the plate.
“With their experience, I expect them to come through offensively,” he said. “Overall, we just need to catch the ball and we should be OK.”
Peters expects Forest City to provide the toughest competition within league play, but feels each team poses a challenge.
The Lions lost their first District 2 Class A game the past two seasons and last claimed a district title in 2012.
Prep hopes experience = success
Scranton Prep returns five starters from last year’s baseball team that finished with a 5-9 record.
Senior Nate Fiala is back as a pitcher, senior Tyler Stafursky returns as a pitcher/first baseman, junior Jordan White returns as a pitcher, junior Kyler McCallister is back at catcher and senior Robert Pfleckl returns at third base for the Cavaliers.
Senior Jack Burke and juniors Mario Giannone, John Redman, Jake Grady and Tommy Fitzpatrick are competing for outfield spots. Grady and Fitzpatrck may also work as pitchers.
Seniors Noah Machek, Kevin Yanul, Michael Leri, Kyle Polishan, junior Pat Belardi, and freshmen Noah Granet and Vince Cimini should may see time at various infield position. Yanul and junior Dom Giaccobe may also serve as pitchers.
“I think our defense will be a strength to go along with our pitching,” Scranton Prep head coach Mark Seitzinger said. “I also think our speed will help us offensively. This group of young men have worked hard every day. With the team we’ve assembled this season, I really believe we will compete for a league championship and a district title.”
Seitzinger and assistant coaches Jason Bugno and John Stolan have worked to put their stamp on the program during the first few weeks of practice.
“The first thing we’ve done is make sure the fundamentals of baseball are stressed,” he said. “We make sure we practice the way we’re going to play, which is hard and fundamentally sound.”
Seitzinger believes the Cavaliers will be tested each time they take the field during Lackawanna League Division 1 play.
“I think we play in one of the toughest divisions in the state,” he said. “On any given day, any team can win. Every game is going to be a battle and every game will prove important when it comes to (District 2 Class 3A) seeding.”
The team must replace five starters in shortstop Daniel Ryan, right fielder Kevin Sompel, left fielder Justin Belardi, second baseman David Haudenshield, and center fielder Daniel Timlin, who all graduated.
Scranton Prep won its last District 2 title in 2008 while playing in Class 2A.
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.