Spring sports are on the horizon
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
Quinn Mason, Mike Hohlfeld, middle, and Mitch Peers, bottom, lead the Boyertown baseball team into the 2018 season.