Teams look to end postseason drought
SHAMOKIN - Across the boards, the results weren't good for local teams when it came to the District 4 playoffs last season.
Line Mountain didn't qualify. Neither did Mount Carmel Area, Shamokin Area nor Southern Columbia.
Naturally, goals were easy to come by when the preseason rolled around this year.
The motivation was looking teams squarely in the eyes.
Reverse the trend.
Line Mountain needed one more win last year, Shamokin and Southern, two each. Mount Carmel lagged behind with just four wins on the books and 10 needed to qualify.
Who can end the drought this season?
Shamokin Area and Southern Columbia would seem to be in the best shape.
The Indians, under head coach Billy Clark, have experience,
they have some hitting and they have an ace on the mound in No. 1 pitcher Austin Fry.
"We have a veteran crew, no doubt about it," Clark said last week after his team opened the season with a 13-3 victory over Warrior Run in a Heartland II matchup. "We're senior-laden, we're athletic and we hope to use those things to our advantage."
Much of it will start with Fry.
The senior was 3-3 on the mound, posting a sterling 2.29 earned run average over 52 innings of work.
He added to that on the offensive side where he batted .333, belted two home runs and knocked home 18.
Seniors Darien Craft and Paul Gurba also have some pitching experience, while seniors Theo Deptula, Nate Malett, Mike Rodarmel and Brody Young, and junior Zach Tillett all have plenty of experience and will help to complete the package.
"We have a lot of guys who have been playing since they were freshmen and sophomores," Clark said. "I think we have a chance to be very competitive."
At Southern Columbia, pitching depth is the key for a team looking to rebound from an unusual 8-12 season last year.
Seniors Matt Klock (4-2 last year), Tyler Behrent (1-1), Taylor Young (2-2) a Tyler Rhodomoyer (1-4) all experienced at least a level of success last year and will anchor a staff that also includes senior Kyle Zigarski, junior Nate Hunter and junior Mason Peters.
Hunter was the team's offensive leader with a .429 average, seven doubles, four home runs and 21 runs batted in. Rhodomoyer at .321 and Behrent at .312 were also potent offensively.
Line Mountain posted nine victories last year, but graduation losses were fairly heavy and head coach Jon Raker, beginning his second stint with the team, will have to rely on plenty of young players if the Eagles are to get over the hump.
Senior Austin Snyder (4-1, 3.17 ERA) is the most experienced pitcher on the staff. Senior Erik Smeltz (4-5 with a 4.69 ERA) had surgery prior to the season and won't be available. Smeltz was also the team's leading hitter last year with a .453 average that included four doubles, a triple and a home run.
"We're looking to be competitive in all of our games," Raker said in his preseason prospectus. "We're inexperienced, but we hope to improve with each game we play.
"We'll need to do all the little things that are necessary to win games this season."
At Mount Carmel, senior catcher Danny Lesko, an all-area selection last season, will be working with a relatively inexperienced pitching staff led by sophomore Zach Tocyloski.
Lesko is a stout offensive threat as well. In 2012 he was one of the best hitters in the area with a .395 average. He belted six doubles, a home run and knocked in 13 runs.
Other veterans the Red Tornadoes will count on as they work to improve on last year's four-win record will be seniors Jayson Stellar and Anthony Pennypacker, and juniors Gary Breginsir and Zach Wasilewski.
Coach: Jon Raker
2012 Record: 9-11 (7-5 Tri-Valley League)
Returning Players: Kellen Masser (So., 2B-P), Austin Snyder (Sr., 3B-P).
Remainder of Roster: Colton Gaw (So., 1B), Britton Heim (Sr., C-1B), Hunter Hojnacki (So., 2B-3B-OF), JP Lenker (So., C), Kyle Mace (Sr., OF), Hunter Masser (So., OF), Brady Michael (So., SS-P), Jeremy Renn (Sr., OF), Cody Romanoskie (Jr., OF), Cory Warford (Jr., 3B-P), John Yerger (So., OF).
Outlook: The Eagles, with nine victories last year, just missed a trip to the District 4 playoffs. However, graduation hit the team hard and only two starters return from that team for Jon Raker, who begins his second stint as the Eagles' head coach. The team also suffered a blow when senior Erik Smeltz, last year's leading hitter and top pitcher had shoulder surgery prior to the season. As always, the goal is to compete for a league title and qualify for the the District 4 postseason; however with the lack of experience, both will be difficult.
Mount Carmel Area
Coach: Ray Bettleyon
2012 Record: 4-16
Returning Players: Danny Lesko (Sr., C), Jayson Stellar (Sr., IF), Anthony Pennypacker (Sr., 1B), Gary Breginsir (Jr.), Zack Wasilewski (Jr.), Zach Tocyloski (So.).
Remainder of Roster: Rich Coffman (Sr.), Jayson Strausser (Sr.), Jacob Jones (Jr.), Joey Bergan (Jr.), Trey Milewski (Jr.), Colin Bettleyon (So.), Michael Pupo (So.), Austin Joraskie (So.), Tyler Thompson (Fr.), Kyle Karycki (Fr.).
Outlook: The Red Tornadoes struggled throughout the season last year and, like almost every other team in the area, are looking to rebound quickly. Graduation took its toll, but solid contributors return, led by senior catcher Danny Lesko. Sophomore Zach Tocyloski showed promise on the mound last season and could develop into a very good pitcher. Mount Carmel should improve, but becoming a playoff qualifier could prove difficult.
Head coach: Nick Brayford
Last year: 15-8, 9-3 Schuylkill-I
Returnees: Jake Damiter (Jr., Inf-P), Matt Smarkanic (Jr., Inf-P), Billy Stokes (Sr., Inf-P)
Remainder of Roster: Dan Demansky (Sr., C), Tom Gallagher (Jr., OF-P), Alex Wiley (Jr., OF-P), Bobby Grigas (Fr., OF-P), C.J. Steinhilber (Fr., 1B-P), Tevin Murray (Fr., 1B-P), Nick Sanayka (Sr., DH), Jeff Blanchek (Sr., Inf), Rob Link (Jr., OF), Cody Moore (Jr., OF), Luke Onuskanich (Jr., OF-P), Jake Balkiewicz (Jr., C), Aden Wolfe (Jr., C), Brett Ennis (Jr., Inf), Derrick Reese (Jr., Util), Ryan Hillbish (So., Inf)
Outlook: Spartans lost nine seniors, including All-Area picks Austin Hornberger and Jon Green, from squad that won 15 games for second straight year. Pitcher Matt Smarkanic returns, but rest of club will be young and inexperienced. With only four seniors and a trio of promising freshmen, future looks bright. Could struggle this season.
Coach: Billy Clark
2012 Record: 8-11-1 (1-13 Schuylkill I)
Returning Players: Theo Deptula (Sr., OF), Austin Fry (Sr., SS-P), Nate Malett (Sr., 3B), Mike Rodarmel (Sr., OF-2B-P), Brody Young (Sr., 1B-P), Zach Tillett (Jr., OF).
Remainder of Roster: Darien Craft (Sr., P), Jon Deitrick (Sr., C), Julian Deitrick (Sr., OF-Utility), Paul Gurba (Sr., 2B-SS-RHP), Jeffrey Kashner (Jr.), John Demsko (So., C), Josiah Miller (So., 1B-P), Quinn O'Day (So., OF), Daulton Baumerts (Jr., OF), Joey Deptula (So., 3B-1B-OF), Levi Long (So., OF), Thomas Campbell (Fr., SS-P), Chase Tillett (Fr., 3B-1B-P), Logan Mirolli (So., 2B-OF).
Outlook: The Indians just missed qualifying for the playoffs last season, and should find themselves in position to do it this year. Senior Austin Fry returns as one of the area's top players defensively, offensively and on the pitching mound. Junior Zach Tillett has range and a strong arm in the outfield and could be primed for a breakout season at the plate, while senior outfielder Theo Deptula has been a steady contributor for several seasons. Two other seniors, Darien Craft and Paul Gurba are likely to be key to the pitching rotation.
Coach: Randy Young
2012 Record: 8-12
Returning Players: Tyler Behrent (Sr., P-DH-IF-OF), Matt Klock (Sr,. P-OF), Tyler Rhodomoyer (Sr., P-OF), Chris Woods (Sr., IF-C), Taylor Young (Sr., P-C), Kyle Zigarski (Sr., P-OF-C), Nathan Hunter (Jr., P-3B), Matt Lupold (Jr., 2B), Mason Peters (Jr., P-OF), Garrett Sosnoski (Jr., P-SS).
Remainder of Roster: Ryan Leisenring (Jr., OF), Koy McCloskey (Jr., OF), Doug Michaels (Jr., 1B), Kyle Mostik (So., IF), John Wilson (So., P-1B-OF), Blake Marks (Fr., P-1B-OF).
Outlook: Missing the playoffs last season didn't sit well with the Tigers. Look for them to reverse that this season as they compete for Heartland III top honors. Behrent, Klock (4-2, 2.58 ERA last year) and Rhodomoyer give them three seniors to form the core of the pitching staff. Hunter was one of the area's top hitters last year at .429, while Rhodomoyer and Behrent also batted above the .300 mark.