March 25, 2004
Northern Lehigh is already looking like a winner in the Colonial
By Mandy Housenick
Of The Morning Call
Northern Lehigh baseball coach Frank Carazo got to thinking.
His 2004 team looks awfully familiar.
''This may be the most talented team we've had in about 18 or 19 years,'' the 29th-year head coach said. ''In 1984, '85 and '86, we won the Centennial League three years in a row with a group much like these guys.''
Not exactly what other Colonial League teams want to hear.
Plus, they'll have to contend with a team that's hungry. Just two years ago, the Bulldogs finished 8-12 and didn't make the playoffs.
After going 14-4 in league play last season, they ended the year on a bitter note.
The Bulldogs were crushed by Northwestern, 22-4, in the Colonial League tournament final. Then, in the first round of districts, Josh Ziegler threw a one-hitter, but the Bulldogs lost to Pen Argyl, which scored on a sacrifice fly.
''Last year, I think we surprised people,'' Carazo said. ''This year, I think we won't. They'll be gunning for us.''
''They have to be the team to beat,'' said Southern Lehigh coach Todd Miller, whose team lost to Nolehi in the league tournament semifinals last season. ''They have to go in as the favorite.''
The Bulldogs return the core of a team that batted .363 a season ago, which actually surpassed Carazo's expectations. He said the snow and wet fields forced his team inside, like most others. But it turned out to be a good thing.
After being in the gym for six consecutive days, during which all the Bulldogs did was hit, they returned to the diamond with offensive firepower.
In five games, they scored 56 runs. You can understand why Carazo wasn't angry when his team, which boasts five three-year starters, was forced indoors this spring.
Ziegler, a senior, returns to bolster a pitching staff that finished with a 3.79 ERA last year. While he put up impressive stats — 1.49 ERA and almost a strikeout an inning — the other pitchers weren't as consistent.
''As a pitching staff, I don't know that we lived up to our potential,'' Carazo said. ''I thought at times our pitching was shaky. We had a guy who might put in five good innings and have a bad sixth. I'm hoping that can be improved this year.''
Head coach: Josh Tehonica (first year)
Last year: 9-11 overall, 8-10 third in West
Major losses: SS John Shoemaker, 1B Ryan Gemmel, 2B Joe Galm, CF Jason Fye, OF Mark Arnold, C Esrom Montesino, RF Jordy Miller, P Josh Ojeda.
Key returnees: P/SS Daren Winch, So.; 1B Ryan Labar, Jr.; Kyle CF/P DeFranceschi, Jr.; C/P Joe Recker, So.
Top newcomers: 3B Kyle LaHue, So.; LF/P Jake Shellhammer, Jr.
Outlook: Loss of seven starters had Tehonica scrambling early. He needs pitchers who can throw a lot of innings. And defense is the Rough Riders' big question mark.
Head coach: Frank Carazo (29th year, 253-297)
Last year: 15-7 overall, 14-4 Colonial; West winner, league runner-up; lost to Pen Argyl in first round of districts.
Major losses: C Jason Henritzy (.450 BA, 15 RBIs), 1B Chris Knappenberger (.382 BA, 19 RBIs), OF David Heller.
Key returnees: OF/P Kyle Follweiler, Sr. (36 K, 29 IP); 1B/OF Joe Donohoe, Sr. (.395 BA, 22 RBIs); SS Aaron Mill, Sr. (.416 BA); P/3B Josh Ziegler, Sr. (56 IP, 7-2, 1.49 ERA, 23 BB, 54 K).
Top newcomers: P Steve Gledhill, Jr.; C Matt Lilly, Jr.; OF Frank Gnas, Jr.; INF/P Jason Kunkel.
Outlook: Five three-year starters anchor a team that batted .363 last season. Carazo is looking for big things from Ziegler, the projected No. 1 starter, and the rest of the pitching staff. Every coach in the West labeled the Bulldogs as the team to beat. Enough said.
Head coach: Len Smith, 22nd (237-199-1)
Last year: 17-7 overall, 14-4 Colonial; C.L. champ; lost in district semifinals to state runner-up Tamaqua.
Major losses: 2B/SS/P Ryan Wukitsch (6-2, 3.57 ERA); 2B/P Bryan Ferencz (6-1, 4.00 ERA).
Key returnees: CF Ryan Horvath, Sr. (.385 BA, 19 RBIs); 3B/P Jeff Dolena, Sr. (.333 BA, team-high 28 RBIs); INF/P Pete McCauley, Sr. (team-high .405 BA, 21 RBIs).
Top newcomers: C Steve Longo, Sr.; 2B/P Billy Dewalt, Sr.
Outlook: Smith lost six starters, with the biggest holes being in the middle infield. ''How we go in that middle will be how we go as a team,'' Smith said. With the loss of two pitchers, Smith needs quality innings from Donny Hartzell and Josh Beitler.
Head coach: Ted Plessl (30th year).
Last year: 4-16 overall, 3-15 in Colonial, fourth in West
Major losses: OF/P Josh Hunter; 1B Sean McCormick
Key returners: 3B/P Ralph Andrews, Sr. (team-high .400 BA); INF/P Steve Roberts, Jr.; 2B Mike Falcone, Sr.
Top newcomers: 1B/P Nick Nigito, Jr.; CF Ryan Cardoni, Jr.; LF Greg Herzog, Jr.; P/1B Derek Anthony, Jr.
Outlook: Plessl kept a lot of guys on the JV team last year, and he's hoping that experience helps get the varsity a few more wins this season. Three-year starter Steve Roberts has missed time with a hernia operation. A big plus is team speed.
Head coach: Chic Kennedy (10th year, 105-88)
Last year: 5-14 overall, 5-14 in Colonial, fourth in South
Major losses: OF Kyle Fogerty; SS Bryan Schapley
Key returnees: P Justin Reiss, Jr.; P James Rundantz, Sr.; P/OF Jeff Kulp, Sr.
Top newcomers: OF Brian Hahn, So.; SS/P Andrew Feher, So.; P/INF Jed Fitz, Jr.; INF/P Keith Hollander, Jr.
Outlook: After Palisades turned in its worst record in nine years — it didn't make the postseason after eight consecutive berths — Kennedy responded, ''We definitely, absolutely, positively will be in the hunt.'' Kennedy likes the defense and pitching so far. It's the offense that will make or break this squad.
Head coach: Bill Rogers (20th year).
Last year: 8-12 overall, 8-10 in Colonial, tied for second in South.
Major losses: C Dan Williamson (.356 BA), OF Micah Voice (.309 BA), P Jeff Matus, P Matt Gorkos.
Key returnees: C/P Erik Gough, Jr. (team-high .438 BA); OF Chris McKeown, Sr. (.326 BA); P/OF Josh Opsetnik, Jr. (.302 BA); P/INF Ryan Ferrani, Sr.
Top newcomers: P/1B Brian Mostek, Jr.; INF Sean Spengler, So.; C Matt Kiak, Jr.
Outlook: Rogers is excited about his pitching staff. To make the playoffs, must have better pitch selection. ''We should be OK if we can make contact,'' Rogers said. Look for Mostek to supply power.
Head coach: Mike Pochron (fifth year, 39-41)
Last year: 9-11 overall, 8-10 in Colonial, tied for second in South
Major loss: C Jarod Strauss (.357 BA).
Key returnees: 2B Glenn Benner, Sr. (.367 BA, 16 RBIs, 3 HRs); P/OF Derek Caldwell, Sr. (2.09 ERA); SS/P Tim Jones, Sr. (3-1); 3B/P David Miele, Sr. (team-high .371 BA, 4 HRs).
Top newcomer: INF Brenden Hensinger, Jr.
Outlook: With 10 seniors returning, Pochron is expecting his team to come up with that clutch hit, which he said was missing last season. ''We've been waiting three years for this group, and I feel we are contenders,'' he said.
Head coach: Todd Miller, sixth year.
Last year: 10-10, 10-8 in Colonial, won the South, lost to Nolehi in first round of Colonial Tournament; lost to Notre Dame-GP in first round of districts.
Major losses: P Chris Feathers (6-4), RF Trevor Williamson (.340).
Key returnees: P/1B Matt Fulton, Sr.; P/1B/DH Jim Ernst, Jr.; 2B Kevin Thomas, Jr.; SS Justin Neiser, So.; 3B Rob Schubach, So.; C Doc Neiman, So.
Top newcomers: None.
Outlook: Miller called Fulton and Ernst possibly the best 1-2 pitching combination in the league. Problem is they both have knee problems. ''If one of them gets hurt to where they can't play, we'll be in trouble,'' Miller said.
Head coach: John Kochmansky (fifth year, 62-32).
Last year: 17-7 overall, 14-4 Colonial, first in East; lost in CL tournament semifinals to Northwestern; lost in district final to Tamaqua.
Major losses: SS Jake DeBoer (CL Player of the Year, .425 BA, 20 SB); 1B Joe Ronca (3-year starter); P/OF Dan Borton (.347 BA, 21 RBIs, 3-1, 4 saves).
Key returnees: P Mike Buchanan, Sr. (4-2, 4.40 ERA, .304 BA); INF Matt Mellert, Sr. (.369 BA, 25 RBIs); OF/P David Miller, Sr. (.339, 11 SBs); C Adam Kline, Sr.; OF/P Mike Bortz, Jr. (.449 BA, 16 SBs, 26 RBIs, 5-1, 4.23 ERA).
Top newcomers: P/OF Devin Coleman, Fr.; OF/C Phil Gheller, Jr.
Outlook: Return of four guys who pitched significant innings may make the Green Knights' season. With DeBoer and his .425 average gone, Kochmansky is going to need offensive consistency.
Head coach: Paul Altenbach (11th, 147-83)
Last year: 13-9 overall, 10-8 in Colonial, won South; lost in district semifinals to Northwestern.
Major losses: P Eric Donaldson (1.54 ERA, 10 CG, 8-2); LF Erick Vaugh (.379 BA, 19 RBIs, .593 OBP).
Key returnees: C Chris Eckhart, Sr. (20 RBIs, team-high 422 BA, .635 OBP); 2B Brett Etter, Jr. (.397 BA, 27 R); P/3B Ryan Schuberth, Jr. (.315 BA); RF Brad Nicholas, Sr.; P/LF Brian Nicholas, Sr.; CF Chuck Stokes, Sr.
Top newcomer: 1B/P D.J. Lennehan, Fr.
Outlook: Although just 14 are on the varsity roster, a speedy offense and a defense bolstered by the infield raise expectations. Altenbach is just waiting on his pitching. ''We're hoping that working with the underclassmen our pitching will come around quickly,''Altenbach said.
Head coach: Mike ''Doc'' Kreider (20th year, 190-204-1).
Last year: 7-13 overall, 6-12 in Colonial, fourth in East
Major losses: P/SS Brian Bergstol (.400 BA); CF Brandon Malachowski (.313); 1B Marc Antonioli (.328); P/OF Chad Pysher (.364); P Patrick Parsons (34 K).
Key returnees: 3B/P Kevin Thompson, Sr. (single-season school record 7 HRs); C/DH Bryce Baddic, Sr.; P/OF Dan Dougherty, Sr.; 2B Chris O'Donohue, Sr.; 1B/DH Gregg Beck, Sr.; SS Maurice Rapp, So.; OF Kyle Kline, So.
Top newcomers: 1B/3B Bo Synder, Jr.; C/OF Brad Bodine, So.
Outlook: Kreider's looking at having just two or three players on the field with varsity experience. ''The lineup might change every game for the first 10 games,'' Kreider said. Thompson's leadership will hold Bangor together, especially early.
NOTRE DAME-GREEN POND
Head coach: Dave Brown (second year, 12-10).
Last year: 12-10 overall, 9-9 in Colonial; lost to Pine Grove in second round of districts
Major losses: P Nathan Hritz (8-game winner), C Jeff Fisher (.300 BA), SS Josh Ruane (.430 BA).
Key returnees: CF Dan Tavani, Sr. (.390 BA); INF Johnny Bisco, Sr.; OF Drew Collina, Sr.; 1B Steve Smith, Sr. (18 RBIs).
Top newcomers: P Eric Fashano, Jr.; P Mark Shive, So.
Outlook: An untested pitching staff and a new shortstop and catcher mean Brown needs his offense to be explosive and consistent. ''I think we'll be able to score a few more runs than last year,'' the coach said.