The 2013 North Penn baseball team has the rest of their lives to relive the PIAA Class AAAA title the Knights won last spring. For the players returning for the 2014 season, they just want to live in the moment.
Several crucial players from last year graduated and it will be a new-look Knights. But several of those players that helped the Knights, who lost 10 games and got hot at the right time, are back in the Columbia Blue.
The 6-5 win over Lower Dauphin was something to witness. Current senior Noah Melchior soaked it in from Penn State's rightfield bullpen. Melchior, a West Chester commit, had his innings limited on the mound behind seniors Brian Maher (LaSalle) and Dylan Borawski. This season he will not be firing his bullets from the bullpen.
"Brian taught a good lesson, that if you put your nose to the grindstone you will get your chance," Knights coach Kevin Manero said. "Noah has an opportunity and four juniors as well are lined up ready to go. It typically happens here where we have a guy with a chance to step up as an upperclassmen and Noah has that this year."
Melchior never was handed the ball in the title game because Bobby Scott singled home the game-winning run in the form of Eddie Posavec. The catcher Posavec is now at Binghamton and the now senior Scott, who was the designated hitter for the large majority of his junior year, may wind up behind the plate.
"We lost our best athlete in Posavec, our best hitter in Brady West, and our best pitcher Maher, but the good thing is you have to expect that," Manero said. "We have some good athletes on the team this year and we have to get those guys prepared. Matt Stella was the JV catcher last year and is a good leader. Bobby played catcher all fall and has come along way. We feel very confident with both guys behind the plate."
Others players who sparked the Knights run toward a title include juniors Jared Melone, Anthony Cameron and sophomore Mason Nadeau. Nobody is going to take Manero's group lightly this season and they are prepared for early season hiccups. But nobody knows better than the Knights about playing your best ball in May is what really matters.
"Last year was great, but the calendar has turned and it is ancient history"' Manero said. "Every player is here to make their own mark. The season is short and you have to be playing your best at the end. If you are, and you have not gotten yourself in a big hole, your chances are as good as anybody elses."
The area is full of teams who return having graduated their number one pitcher. Souderton, Methacton, Wissahickon and Pennridge all have to break in a new go-to guy on the mound. The Rams — who lost to rival North Penn in the PIAA semifinals — reloads and are ready for another run. The trio of Danny Shane, David Tatoian and Joe Unangst have started since their freshman year and are now leaders in their junior season. Tatoian, who suffered an injury in the PIAA quarterfinals, is expected to play second base, but avoid time on the mound this season.
"People that follow high school baseball in our area know that it is very competitive every year," Manero said. "Especially in our own conference, it is difficultt to repeat that level of success. There are a lot of good teams out there and it is just a matter of what you do with your opportunity."
Coach: Josh Saunders (first season)
Last Year: 10-2 overall
Notable Losses: Jaron Kacinski (2B), Bobby Noblini (SS), Matt Zane (OF), Dolan Stimpson (C)
Key Returners: SENIOR — JB Van Dame (1B/P); JUNIOR — Issac Oberholzer (C); SOPHOMORE — Rashid St. Fleur (SS)
Others to Watch: SOPHOMORE - Mike Van Dame (UTL), Joey Hodnett (3B)
Strengths: The Warriors believe they have a smart team, that always knows where to go with the baseball. Their team speed is also and added bonus.
Question Marks: The Warriors have a young team that is still learning how to be selective in the batter's box.
Overall Outlook: Saunders said,' as young as a team that we are the kids have a goal of going 12-0 this season. They were even younger last year and went 10-2 so I think it is a great goal for them to try and achieve. Our pitchers are going to throw the ball well and they have a great infield and outfield to back them up. So it's going to be a great season and I now we are going to win a lot of games.'
Central Bucks West
Coach: Jim Ertel (ninth season)
Last Year: 7-12 (4-10 Suburban One League Continental Conference)
Notable Losses: Brandon Davis (UTL), Zach Marinelli (IF), Miles Verruto (P)
Key Returners: SENIORS — John Fitz (SS/P),Will Taylor (P), Brennan Snyder (OF), Cole Malinauskas (P), Jason Perlata (C), Patrick Kelley (P)
Others to Watch: JUNIOR — Drew Sypawka (OF), Robert Phillips (IF)
Strengths: The Bucks bring back several seniors with varsity experience. They are hoping to turn some of last year's lumps into this year's successes.
Overall Outlook: The Bucks believe they can improve on last year's record and reach the District 1 playoffs.
Coach: Ed Melendez (Second season)
Last Year: 8-7 overall
Notable Losses: Ryan Thomas (OF)
Key Returners: SENIORS — Drew Houtzinger (1B), Connor McCoach (UTL), Derek Cassel (2B/OF); JUNIORS — Evan Trauger (P), Jack Kustra (IF); SOPHOMORES — Tyler Alderfer (P/OF), Tim DiLoreto (C)
Others to Watch: JUNIOR — Bryce Shortall (1B/P); FRESHMEN — Daniel Sabath (P/OF)
Strengths: The Pioneers have loaded up on the hard throwing pitchers. They have four guys who clock over 80 miles per hour, including the freshman Sabath.
Question marks: Melendez is still uncertain who will win the position battles in the outfield. All three spots are up for grabs.
Overall Outlook: Melendez believes the Pioneers have good team chemistry and plan on having a successful season.
Coach: David Scott (first season)
Last Year: 9-11 overall
Notable Losses: Tom Gibbons, Ian Conwell, Mark Savini, Ben Lippincott, Dan Carney
Key Returners: SENIORS — Matt Kress (P), Sean Becker (C), Jack Merlino (P), Chris Wallace (P/1B), Kevin Scott (IF), Nick Mandarano (C), Kevin Krier (OF/P), Sean McMonagle (OF/P), Frankie Fusca (P), Ian Bates (1B)
Others to Watch: JUNIORS — Mike Christy, Andrew Melsheimer, Kyle Diseroad, Justin Gaumer, Nick Smalley; SOPHOMORE — Ryan Logan
Strengths: The Crusaders are excited about their experience and pitching depth.
Question Marks: The Crusaders are uncertain how the pitching by committee strategy will work, but they are going to give it a shot under first-year coach Scott.
Overall Outlook: The Crusaders hope the senior-laden squad helps them return to the Philadelphia Catholic League playoffs after a year's absence. Some new faces could be the push to get this team over the top in a tough league.
Coach: Kevin Manero (third season)
Last Year: 17-10 (9-5 SOL Continental), fourth place District 1-AAAA, PIAA AAAA champion
Notable Losses: Brian Maher (P) (LaSalle), Ed Posavec (C)(Binghampton), Brady West (OF) (Bloomsburg), Dylan Borawski (P), Brad Bertucci (3B), Zillur Rahim (OF)
Key Returners: SENIORS — Chris Kersey (SS), Bobby Scott (C); JUNIORS — Jared Melone (1B), Anthony Cameron (2B); SOPHOMORE — Mason Nadeau
Others to watch: SENIORS — Noah Melchior (P), Kris Akins (OF), Matt Stella (C); JUNIORS — Kellen Williamson (P), James Winter (P), Logan Leslie (P), Colin Healey (P), Doug Apple (OF), Kadar Namey (P)
Strengths: Even losing the top two arms from last season the Knights are excited about the depth they have on the mound. They also return players that broke out during its state title run such as Melone and Nadeau.
Question marks: The Knights have to replace some key spots opened by graduation. There may be some early season bumps as they find the right mix.
Overall Outlook: Manero said, "With a strong core of young players and a few key seniors who played big roles in 2013, it is a group that has worked very hard and can't wait to get back out on the field. The league is always one of the most competitive around so there are never any easy games, and many teams will be out to take the top spot, so it comes down to playing fundamental, aggressive baseball regardless of who is in the lineup or on the other side of the field on any given day. If we execute on both sides of the ball, we feel confident we can be in a good position.'
Coach: Paul Spiewak (11th season)
Last Year: 17-7 (13-5 PAC-10), lost to Council Rock North in District 1-AAAA quarterfinals.
Notable Losses: Tyler Kirkpatrick (OF) (Marist), Clayton Harwick (C) (West Chester), Trip Hagner (SS), Reed Hostrander (P), Mike Anthony (P), Dan Damato (DH), Zach Harmon (2B)
Key Returners: SENIORS — Glenn Seymour (3B/C), Austin Bregman (IF), Tim Carfey (OF), Kyle Lowery (IF), John Wiedmayer (P), Jim Shomberg (OF), Kyle Feaster (OF)
Others to Watch: SENIORS — Greg Pellicano (1B), Cameron Cook (SS), Owen McCue (P), Luke Muscaro (C)
Strengths: The Warriors are very confident in their ability to play strong defense and put up runs. The lineup is deep.
Question marks: The Warriors are very young and unproven at the varsity level on the mound. The Warriors remain confident that they will step up.
Overall outlook: The Warriors want a PAC-10 championship and hopefully compete for a district title and qualify for the state playoffs.
Coach: Tom Nuneviller (12th season)
Last Year: 20-8 overall (9-5 SOL Continental), second place in District 1-AAAA, lost to North Penn in PIAA AAAA semifinals
Notable Losses: Mike Kacergis (C) (DeSales), Evan Myers (P), Jake Gordon (1B), AJ Molettiere (OF), Trevor Dalton (P) (DelVal), Ben Morina (3B)
Key Returners: SENIORS — Tyler Shoultes (P/1B), Eric Wesolowski (P), Brad Misialek (SS); JUNIORS — Danny Shane (OF), David Tatoian (2B), Joe Unangst (OF)
Others to Watch: SENIOR — Jeff Roedell (C), Ryan Denner (P), Evan Tice (UTL), Sam Sude, Joe Firuta (OF); JUNIORS — Tommy Nuneviller (1B/OF), Joe Molettiere (P), Zack Muredda (IF); SOPHOMORES — Danny Long (IF), Ryan Gordon (C)
Strengths: The team gained a ton of experience playing in a tough conference and making a run to the PIAA semifinals. The Rams have a number of key contributors returning.
Question Marks: The Rams have some depth on the mound, but they lost their top two starters to graduation in Myers and Dalton. Shoultes and Wesolowski will be counted on for more innings as will Joe Molettiere among many others.
Overall Outlook: Nuneviller believes if the Rams have a "team first' attitude and make the number one goal winning they have enough talent and experience to challenge for a conference championship and make another deep run in the postseason.
Coach: Mike Childs (Ninth season)
Last Year: 9-10 overall (6-8 SOL Continental)
Notable Losses: Dan O'Hara (P), Brian Gibbs (P), Kyle Wenger (OF), John Santoianni (1B), Stephen Hink (SS)
Key Returners: SENIORS — Brad Stoltzfus (SS), Dan Heilmann (3B/P), Zane Moyer (C), Brett Hale (OF), Micah Plank (IF)
Others to Watch: SENIORS — Hunter Stadnycki (P), Adam Strogis (OF); JUNIOR — Dylan Morrisette (1B/C); SOPHOMORE — Blake Gular (OF)
Strengths: The Indians return several starters from last year's team. The lineup has a strong mix of speed and pop.
Question marks: The Indians graduated their top two starters and the roster this season is limited on experience on the mound.
Overall Outlook: If the Indians starters can throw strikes and the defenders behind him can field the ball they should be able to score enough runs to compete in a challenging conference.
Coach: Shannon Gunby (Eighth season)
Last Year: 9-8 overall (8-6 in SOL American), lost to Downingtown West in District 1-AAAA first round
Notable Losses: Randy Frankenfield (P/OF), Joe Gorman (C), Greg McDonough (OF), Kensuke Kushimoto (IF), Billy McFarland (1B), Cody Frank (IF), Mike Marcantonini (C)
Key Returnees: SENIORS — Lee Dugger (P), Matt Oruch (P), Brett Downey (OF), Ryan Toltzis (1B); JUNIORS — Nick Falso (SS), Julian Osterneck (OF/P), Ryan Becker (IF)
Others to Watch: SOPHOMORES — Brian Fischer (C), Blake Rappaport (3B)
Strengths: The Trojans love their team speed, but are most excited about their infield. The smooth glove work of Falso, Becker, and Rappaport should help out the pitchign staff immensely.
Question Marks: The Trojans have a tone of arms that can pitch, but they are till trying to see who will emerge as go-to guys. Some sophomores and juniors have a chance to earn that role.
Overall outlook: Gunby says,'he hopes that their hard work puts his team in position to contend for a conference championship and a spot in the District One playoffs.'
Follow Andrew Marcus on Twitter @amarcus515.