Spring sports are on the hori­zon

The Boyertown Area Times - - FRONT PAGE - — Com­piled by Thomas Nash

BOY­ER­TOWN

Man­ager: Todd Moyer, 25th sea­son.

Last year’s record: 11-5 Pi­o­neer Ath­letic Con­fer­ence, 13-9 over­all (PAC run­ner-up, District 1-6A play­off qual­i­fier).

Play­ers to watch: Se­niors: Mitchell Peers, OF/ DH; Quinn Ma­son, INF; Mike Hohlfeld, P.

Out­look: Never count out the Bears, even after grad­u­at­ing 11 se­niors from last year’s pro­gram. Now two years re­moved from their PIAA Class 4A (now Class 6A) Cham­pi­onship sea­son in 2016, Boy­er­town re­turns only two steady con­trib­u­tors from that squad in Peers and Ma­son. Hohlfeld, the younger brother of 2016 All-Area Player of the Year Pat Hohlfeld, should take a step for­ward as a se­nior this spring while se­nior Noah Kurtz and ju­nior Chris Davis should be nice con­trib­u­tors at the plate.

DANIEL BOONE

Man­ager: Jason McCord, eighth sea­son. Last year’s record: 7-3 Berks Con­fer­ence I, 16-7 over­all. (Dis­tict 3-5A run­ner-up, PIAA-5A play­off qual­i­fier).

Play­ers to watch: Se­niors: Car­son Zu­ber, SS/P; Con­nor Cleaver, INF/P; Brett Goodrich, 3B/P; Robert Kurtz, 1B/P. Ju­niors: Matt Stevens, OF; Matt Hen­der­son, P; Chase Lacey, INF/OF; Tim Richard, C.

Out­look: A sea­son after earn­ing their first state play­off berth since 1997, Daniel Boone will ex­pe­ri­ence a ma­jor ros­ter over­haul fol­low­ing the grad­u­a­tion of seven play­ers. McCord and the Blaz­ers are em­brac­ing that role, though, bring­ing back some var­sity tested play­ers in Zu­ber, Cleaver, Goodrich and Stevens. “While we suf­fered heavy grad­u­a­tion losses, the team again has the po­ten­tial to be very com­pet­i­tive if we em­brace a hunter men­tal­ity and un­der­stand that teams will be com­ing after us,” said McCord. “The pro­gram is in good shape with a solid pipe­line of ta­lent reload­ing each year.”

HILL SCHOOL

Man­ager: Bowen Borge­son, sec­ond sea­son.

Last year’s record: 4-6 Mid-At­lantic Prep League, 6-10 over­all.

Play­ers to watch: Se­niors: Luke Al­lain, P/OF; Danny Monzo, C; Max Putt, CF. Ju­nior: Bren­nan Keil, P. Sopho­mores: Michael Eze, SS; Michael Rock­ovich, OF.

Out­look: Left-handed Buck­nell com­mit Al­lain should be at the top of the Blues’ ro­ta­tion as The Hill boasts an ex­pe­ri­enced, se­nior-heavy ros­ter com­ing off a down sea­son. The Blues will need to fill in the blanks after grad­u­at­ing Char­lie Ho­gan and Jack Baugh­man. “We’ve got a good group of se­nior lead­er­ship,” said Borge­son. “A hand­ful of un­der­class­men will con­trib­ute in all as­pects of the game.”

METHAC­TON

Man­ager: Paul Spiewak, 15th sea­son.

Last year’s record: 10-6 PAC, 14-8 over­all (District 1-6A play­off qual­i­fier).

Play­ers to watch: Se­niors: Demetrio Rodriguez, 3B/OF; Josh Du­bost, P/INF. Ju­niors: Ben Chris­tian, P/1B; Perry Corda, C/OF/INF; Con­nor Smith, OF/2B; Zack Grif­fin, P.

Out­look: Methac­ton was no slouch last sea­son, but fell vic­tim to play­ing in one of the state’s most chal­leng­ing di­vi­sions. Six of the War­riors’ eight losses last spring came against PAC Lib­erty Di­vi­sion op­po­nents, in­clud­ing a 4-0 loss against Spring-Ford at dis­tricts. Methac­ton should once again find it­self right in the mix with a bevy of up­per­class­men re­turn­ing to the lineup in­clud­ing four-year starter Rodriguez and Corda, who hit .367 last spring. Du­bost and Chris­tian will be a nice combo in the ro­ta­tion while Grif­fin should also make an im­pact. “Given the num­ber of re­turn­ing starters for this sea­son, we feel very con­fi­dent in our abil­ity to play strong de­fense and throw strikes,” said Spiewak. “We feel that we are an ex­pe­ri­enced team at the Var­sity level, and feel that our re­turn­ing play­ers will be com­pli­mented with some ex­cit­ing young first year play­ers. We hope to com­pete first and fore­most for a 2018 PAC cham­pi­onship. Al­though our league is very strong and that will be a big chal­lenge for us, our goals have not changed from past sea­sons.” Man­ager: Jack Stur­geon, sec­ond sea­son.

Last year’s record: 0-16 PAC, 1-19 over­all. Play­ers to watch: Se­nior: Matthew Bates. Ju­nior: Nick Chiodo.

Out­look: The Ea­gles’ first run in the PAC didn’t go ex­actly to plan — sit­ting at 0-19 be­fore end­ing the sea­son with a non-con­fer­ence win over Penn Wood. For the year, Norristown was outscored 39-159 in­clud­ing six 10-run losses. Chiodo will again be at the front of Norristown’s ro­ta­tion while Bates should be at the top of the lineup. The big­gest void will be the de­par­ture of All-Area First Team in­fielder Tyler Pastella, lost to grad­u­a­tion.

OWEN J. ROBERTS

Man­ager: Greg Gil­bert, 21st sea­son.

Last year’s record: 5-11 PAC, 8-12 over­all. Play­ers to watch: Se­niors: Andy Blum, 1B; Daw­son Stuart, P; Dan Stofko, P; Leif Werge­land, 3B. Ju­nior: Jack Rine­himer, SS.

Out­look: The Wild­cats will have some ma­jor shoes to fill in the bat­ting or­der as they’ll need to re­place top hit­ters Josh Ful­mer and Andy Fisher, both lost to grad­u­a­tion. Their strength will be in the pitch­ing staff as OJR re­turns Stofko and four-year starter Stuart, both of whom Gil­bert says will be the an­chors in the ro­ta­tion. “This year’s team will need to grow up quickly with very lit­tle var­sity ex­pe­ri­ence,” he said. “Our team will have a few re­turn­ing starters but most po­si­tions will be filled with un­der­class­man who have moved up from last year’s JV team.”

PERKIOMEN SCHOOL

Man­ager: Ken Baker, 29th sea­son. Last year’s record: 14-4 over­all. (Tri-County League champs. Lost in open­ing round of PAISAA play­offs).

Play­ers to watch: Se­niors: Sam Glavin, C/LF; Naty Urbina, C. Ju­niors: David Smith, P/SS/CF; Chris Pow, 2B. Sopho­more: Jay­den Kemp, 3B/ OF. Fresh­man: Zach Smith, P/SS.

Out­look: The Pan­thers will look to make it 24 straight Tri-County League cham­pi­onship ti­tles this year even with only two re­turn­ing se­niors. Perk’s lack of depth and ex­pe­ri­ence showed last sea­son when they fell to Ship­ley School, 10-3 in the open­ing round of the PA In­de­pen­dent Schools Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion (PAISAA) play­offs. Perk will bring in a trio of promis­ing new­com­ers, in­clud­ing post-grad John Crane and ju­niors Car­los Tor­res and Jose Aviles. “We need to be bet­ter of­fen­sively than we have been if we want to take the pres­sure off our pitch­ers,” said Baker. “Dur­ing pre­sea­son we have worked hard in the bat­ting cages and I hope we are a more ag­gres­sive team at the plate this year.”

PERKIOMEN VAL­LEY

Man­ager: Ryan Hin­kle, sixth sea­son. Last year’s record: 12-4 PAC, 16-9 over­all. (PAC run­ner-up. Lost in quar­ter­fi­nal round of District 1-6A play­offs, PIAA-6A play­off qual­i­fier).

Play­ers to watch: Se­niors: Brock Helver­son, P; Joe Gorla, IF; Mike Gama, P/INF/OF. Ju­nior: Tyler Strechay, P.

Out­look: The Vik­ings made a splash last year, earn­ing the pro­gram’s first state play­off berth where they posted a 2-0 win in the open­ing round. That run was, per­haps, a year ear­lier than most would have an­tic­i­pated. Now Perk Val­ley, loaded with up­per­class­men, will look to take it a step even fur­ther. West Vir­ginia Uni­ver­sity re­cruit Helver­son (1.94 ERA) and ver­bal com­mit Strechay (1.24 ERA) will be a lethal 1-2 punch in the ro­ta­tion while Gama should be a steady con­trib­u­tor in relief. Perk Val­ley’s big­gest con­cen­tra­tion will be hit­ting. The Vik­ings were held to two or fewer runs in 12 games last sea­son yet were 10-3 in games de­cided by two or fewer runs. “We will have a key group of re­turn­ing starters from last year’s team to help guide the way for new play­ers at this level,” said Hin­kle. “Our pitch­ing staff will re­main strong from our ex­pe­ri­ence last year, and we have a depth of young arms who are ready to fill the in­nings lost from grad­u­a­tion. We have been work­ing hard to stress a more of­fen­sive ap­proach this year to help sup­port our pitch­ing staff to al­low for greater con­fi­dence over­all this year. We look to con­tinue our suc­cess this year by re­ly­ing upon strong pitch­ing backed up by solid de­fense.”

PHOENIXVILLE

Man­ager: Neil Her­man, third sea­son.

Last year’s record: 10-6 PAC, 11-9 over­all. (District 1-5A play­off qual­i­fier).

Play­ers to watch: Se­niors: Kevin Cush­ing, P/ INF; Luke LeBeau, INF; Nick Opalkowski, C. Ju­nior: Trip Shoe­maker, P/OF.

Out­look: The Phan­toms were qui­etly strong last sea­son, pulling out im­pres­sive wins over PAC contenders Spring-Ford, Owen J. Roberts and Boy­er­town be­fore just miss­ing out on mak­ing the PAC Fi­nal Four play­offs. Cush­ing (3-1, 0.61 ERA) will re­turn atop Phoenixville’s ro­ta­tion, a sea­son after he posted a per­fect game against Pottstown while Opalkowski, LeBeau and Shoe­maker re­turn as the team’s lead­ing hit­ters. “This is a se­nior-driven team with some var­sity ex­pe­ri­enced un­der­class­men ,” said Her­man. “This looks to be a very com­pet­i­tive sea­son with most of the teams bring­ing back the core of their play­off teams from last sea­son and don’t count out the teams that just missed the 2017 district play­offs.”

POPE JOHN PAUL II

Man­ager: Josh Hart­line, third sea­son.

Last year’s record: 13-3 PAC, 14-5 over­all (District 1-4A play­off qual­i­fier).

Play­ers to watch: Se­niors: Matt Pi­none, 1B; Colt Nar­ciso, SS; Ryan Sch­wab, 3B/P; Dan Cirino, OF; Mike Kelly, OF; AJ Stento, P; Lo­gan Mabry, P. Ju­nior: John Wag­ner, OF.

Out­look: Last year, a sea­son that looked so promis­ing came to a skid­ding fin­ish as the Golden Pan­thers lost in the open­ing round of the PAC and District 1-4A play­offs. Now, boast­ing an ex­pe­ri­enced ros­ter pep­pered with se­niors, Hart­line and PJP look poised to be a se­ri­ous con­tender once again. All-PAC/All-Area First Team Pitcher Mabry is com­ing off a strong ju­nior sea­son where he posted a 6-2 record with a 1.85 earned-run av­er­age while Kelly (.391 bat­ting av­er­age) was near im­pos­si­ble to keep off the basepa­ths. Gone is out­fielder Chris­tian Wag­ner (Alver­nia Uni­ver­sity) and a cou­ple other key hit­ters, but the Golden Pan­thers should have plenty of bats ready in the ranks. “We are hop­ing to have a suc­cess­ful sea­son and make the PAC Fi­nal Four again,” said Hart­line. “Ex­pec­ta­tions are higher this year, es­pe­cially in the post­sea­son. Play­ing in the best league in the state should pre­pare us for a deep run in the post­sea­son.”

POTTS­GROVE

Man­ager: Jamie Nash, third sea­son.

Last year’s record: 4-12 PAC, 4-14 over­all. Play­ers to watch: Se­niors: Alex Stump, SS/P; Bai­ley Delp, OF/SS/P; Noah Rimel, 1B/3B/P. Ju­niors: Lu­cas Stringer, P; Colin Tem­plin, 3B/C.

Out­look: So far this spring, the Fal­cons have ex­pe­ri­enced the high­est amount of par­tic­i­pa­tion since Nash stepped in as a JV coach in 2014. Potts­grove has some qual­ity arms, most no­tably Stump (20.0 IP, 2.40 ERA) and Stringer (3.00 ERA) re­turn­ing for a team that let up over seven runs per game last year. Tem­plin and Stump should be at the top of Potts­grove’s bat­ting or­der, which will need to re­place lead­ing hit­ter Adam Gi­rafalco, now play­ing foot­ball at Blooms­burg Uni­ver­sity. “We are trend­ing in the right di­rec­tion with a good mix of re­turn­ing ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers with mul­ti­ple years on var­sity, and up and com­ing young play­ers ready to con­trib­ute,” said Nash. “With a plethora of qual­ity arms and a deeper lineup than we have had in pre­vi­ous years, we ex­pect to com­pete and have an op­por­tu­nity to win ev­ery game.”

POTTSTOWN

Man­ager: Ge­off Thomas, first sea­son.

Last year’s record: 3-13 PAC, 3-15 over­all. Play­ers to watch: Se­niors: Timmy Dobbs, 1B/ OF; Owen Mor­ton, P/C/3B; Jimmy O’Don­nell, C/ OF; Seth Yergey, P/1B. Ju­niors: Jeremy Adams, 2B/SS/3B; Daulton Mullen, SS. Sopho­more: Ja­cob Ea­gle, 1B/OF.

Out­look: Thomas takes over a Pottstown pro­gram after long­time head coach Jeff Evans stepped away to coach at Le­high Car­bon Com­mu­nity Col­lege this spring. The Tro­jans re­turn two of their lead­ing hit­ters in Geb­hard and Ea­gle, but will be on the look­out for depth in the pitch­ing ro­ta­tion. Pottstown gave up 10 or more runs in eight games last sea­son and was outscored 43-143 for the year. Thomas plans to start from the ground up. “I have a great staff that is work­ing with me to build re­la­tion­ships and mold the young minds of our stu­dent ath­letes,” he said. “We want to in­still great fun­da­men­tals and teach our young men the right way to play the game.”

SPRING-FORD

Man­ager: Jamie Scheck, sec­ond sea­son.

Last year’s record: 13-3 PAC, 20-6 over­all. (PAC Champs. Lost in the quar­ter­fi­nal round of the District 1-6A play­offs).

Play­ers to watch: Se­niors: Bran­don Ernst, Pa­trick Jucker, An­drew Huang, Nate Camp­bell, Coy Wal­ters, Grant Cal­varese.

Out­look: The Rams’ first sea­son un­der Scheck came to an abrupt fin­ish — Spring-Ford on the wrong side of a walk-off fin­ish dur­ing the state play­off play-in game against Hat­boro-Hor­sham. Now, they’ll turn to their youth to pick up the pieces fol­low­ing the de­par­ture of 17 se­niors and a com­plete ros­ter over­haul. Gone is reign­ing All-Area Player of the Year Conor Larkin (Penn State Uni­ver­sity) and in­field­ers Quinn McKenna (Le­high) and Ryne Moore (Old Do­min­ion) along with Alabama Uni­ver­sity com­mit Jake Kelch­ner, who trans­ferred to Arch­bishop Car­roll for his se­nior sea­son. Ju­niors Mark McNelly, Chase Sim­mons, Ben Wilchacky and Jake Skrocki will be vy­ing to make an im­pact as the sea­son goes on. “We have no re­turn­ing starters from last year’s team,” said Scheck. “We have a nice mix of ta­lent from se­niors, ju­niors and a cou­ple of sopho­mores. We’ll look to com­pete in the PAC this sea­son.”

UP­PER ME­RION

Man­ager: Matt Mitchell, sev­enth sea­son Last year’s record: 8-8 PAC, 11-15 over­all. (Lost in District 1-5A semi­fi­nal, first round of PIAA-5A play­offs).

Play­ers to watch: Se­niors: Michael Hutchin­son, OF/P; Jonathan Eyer, 3B; Luke Hutchin­son, OF. Ju­niors: Matt Choi, P/2B; Sal Costello, C/DH.

Out­look: The Vik­ings pulled off the im­pos­si­ble last sea­son, knock­ing off top-seeded In­ter­boro dur­ing the open­ing round of the PIAA-5A play­offs and even­tu­ally work­ing their way to states for the first time since 2009. Now, they’ll look to make a rou­tine of that post­sea­son suc­cess, only this time with a bet­ter reg­u­lar sea­son. Choi (2-0, 2.39 ERA) and Michael Hutchin­son (2-3, 3.34 ERA) com­bined for nearly half of Up­per Me­rion’s in­nings pitched last sea­son and were the team’s lead­ing hit­ters, which gives Mitchell plenty of hope head­ing into year two in the PAC. “With sev­eral key play­ers re­turn­ing, this year’s Vik­ing squad is fo­cused work­ing hard to earn a re­turn trip to the district play­offs,” he said. “The team is aware of the ta­lent level of the PAC is look­ing for­ward to the chal­lenges of the sea­son.”

UP­PER PERKIOMEN

Man­ager: Frank Mer­con, eighth sea­son. Last year’s record: 7-9 PAC, 7-11 over­all. Play­ers to watch: Se­niors: Trey Liv­ing­stone, P/2B; Robert Guz­man, P/OF; Char­lie Haag, P/SS; Eric Sch­nei­der, OF/C. Ju­niors: Justin Worn­ham, P/SS/3B; Ma­cauley Swenk, OF; Dave Kil­roy, P/1B.

Out­look: The Tribe got good con­tri­bu­tions from sev­eral un­der­class­men dur­ing the late stretch last sea­son, which should bode well for the pro­gram mov­ing for­ward. Liv­ing­stone threw a one-hit­ter dur­ing an early game against Phoenixville last spring and should be at the top of UP’s ro­ta­tion once again. Sch­nei­der and Guz­man showed flashes at the plate dur­ing their ju­nior sea­sons, which should help as the team will look to re­place lead­ing hit­ter Nolan Graber. “We al­ways fo­cus only on the game in front of us. With that be­ing said, qual­i­fy­ing for dis­tricts is al­ways ex­pected,” said Mer­con. The ex­pe­ri­enced coach also shed a lit­tle light on what it’s like com­pet­ing in the PAC: “The knowl­edge of base­ball among the PAC is well be­yond the av­er­age mind. Plus they all carry them­selves pro­fes­sion­ally and ex­pect no less from their play­ers. It has been a plea­sure watch­ing and learn­ing from them over the past 21 years.”

AUSTIN HERT­ZOG - DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA FILE

Quinn Ma­son, Mike Hohlfeld, mid­dle, and Mitch Peers, bot­tom, lead the Boy­er­town base­ball team into the 2018 sea­son.

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