Sunderland's Amazing CL Preview
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objective of this column is to provide an insightful, detailed look into Philadelphia High
School baseball, by viewing and reporting on games that I see, as well as by offering my
own additional opinions and commentary on the season. I will focus
specifically on the Catholic and Inter-Ac leagues, as those are the leagues that I know
best from my previous experience. During my junior and senior years of
high school, I developed a strong desire to learn as much as I can about each and every
opponent. I am hoping this focus on detail will extend to this column,
as I will intend to provide light and insight into this season. Although
for a good part of the season I will be hours away from Philadelphia here at Holy Cross
College, I still feel I will be able to produce an interesting view of the upcoming
season. While I am here at school, I will provide my own commentaries
based on my knowledge of players, teams etc. During Easter break I plan
to catch a few games, as well as during May, when I am let out of school. I
plan to catch numerous games in May and June, when the season is heating up and the
champions are decided. I hope you enjoy this column. It
is my goal to highlight the skills of numerous players and teams, as well as provide the
same publicity for area baseball players that are present for football and basketball
players. If you have any questions or comments or just want to discuss
some topic with me, you can reach me at Msuds4@aol.com.
Once again, it looks to be another intriguing season in
the Catholic League. Yet again, the winner is going to have get by
Archbishop Carroll, the closest thing to a dynasty in PCL baseball. Carroll
has won 5 of the last 7 PCL championships, making them the equivalent of the New York
Yankees. Last year featured a 16-0 absolute thrashing of LaSalle in the
PCL championship. Once again, I think Carroll will be among the cream
of the crop of the PCL. They return ace pitcher Frank Gailey, as
well as other productive starters from last years PCL team, such as John Gardner,
Chris Cashman, and Ryan Stewart. Carrolls program
is so strong that they constantly develop new players into their dominant system.
However, I feel that Carroll will have even more competition this year from
the Kennedy Kenrick Wolverines, their rivals in recent years. KK
returns OF-P Chris Lubanski, the best player in the area and one of the best high
school players in the nation. KK also has a new transfer pitcher, Jon
Smolinksy, from Souderton, who is expected to make a large impact. The
battles between Carroll and KK this year, both in individual games and in the standings,
should be epic. Last year, the PCL South was quite competitive and
mixed, as Carroll, KK, OHara, Bonner, Prep, and Roman all were quite competitive.
In contrast, I predict that this year will be more of a 2 team race, as
Carroll and KK will battle for the top of the division while the rest of the teams
scramble for the remaining 2 playoff spots. Bonner returns pitcher Kevin
Horning and OF Frank Nunan and should make the playoffs. Roman
also returns some strong players, such as pitcher Matt Daley, C Jim McKeany,
and OF Anthony Capella. OHara has lost a lot of talent
from a 14-4 team, while Prep is intriguing with some young talent. Neumann
will be scrappy and does have a decent returning class. I feel that the
Northern Division will also be a 2-team race, with LaSalle and Ryan competing for the top
seed. LaSalle returns Northern division MVP Dan Waters, a
standout pitcher and outfielder, as well as Tony Liberatore, Pat Riley, and Andrew
Carnevale. Once again, LaSalle should be at the top of the Nothern
division. However, Ryan should be right with them, as they return
talented lefty Tom Dolan, who led his team to the semifinals last year.
Conwell-Egan returns some solid pitching and should nab a playoff spot.
The remaining teams should battle for the final playoff spot.
Team by Team:
Carroll: Carroll loses some extremely talented players, such as Mike Costanzo,
Jim Gillin, and Anthony Altomare. However, they have more
than enough talent to overcome these losses and should be as a dominant team as they have
been in recent years. They lost the middle of their lineup in the
aforementioned three players. However, they return their first two
batters, 2B John Gardner and OF Ryan Stewart. Gardner is
tough as nails and is the best returning leadoff hitter in the PCL. He
always finds a way to reach base and has some additional pop in his bat as well, as seen
by his home run at LaSalle University in last years PCL championship. Stewart
is an extremely fast base runner. These two batters should form a
formidable top of the lineup. However, they need some players to step
up in the middle of the lineup. Because they play at the smallest field
in the PCL by far, expect once again to be balls flying out of the ballpark, no matter who
the batters are. Carroll also returns SS Chris Cashman, who
played well in last years PCL championship run. Cashman and
Gardner should form a nice, experienced double play combo, one of the few combos that
return this year. Pitcher Frank Gailey really had a breakout
season last year, garnering first team All catholic honors and was arguably the most
effective pitcher in the league last year. Gailey will be expected to
remain a dominant pitcher. Last year, Carroll had Costanzo as a strong
number 2 pitcher behind Gailey. This year someone must step up in that
role. For Carroll to go deep in the playoffs they will need at least
two strong pitchers. Carroll returns players with experience as well as
an ace in Gailey. They are a strong machine of a program and know how
to win. However, they need to develop a dependable second starter
behind Gailey as well as hitters in the middle of the lineup.
Questions: Can Carroll develop a consistent second starter? Can
they replace the power of Costanzo, Gillen, and Altomare in the middle of the order?
Projection: There is no doubt in my mind that Carroll will remain among the best
teams in the Catholic League. They have too many experienced, talented
players and too strong a program to be anywhere but among the best. There
is a very good chance that Carroll will finish once again at the top of the South.
However, KK will be pushing them very closely. Those
match-ups should be quite epic. I project Carroll to finish either
first or second in the South and to go deep into the playoffs.
Kennedy-Kenrick: When you talk about KK, you must talk first about OF-P Chris
Lubanski. Lubanski has played for the Junior USA National Team and
is considered by Baseball America as the top rated high school player in the Northeast.
He is a Florida State signee and will be one of the top picks in the
upcoming Major League Baseball Draft. Lubanski is an extremely gifted
hitter, who can hit for average as well as power. He possessed a sweet
lefty stroke that is coveted by colleges and major league teams. He
also is extremely fast. Lubanski is the returning Souther Division MVP
and should be the top contender to gain that award this year. He is the
best impact player in the league. What should not go unnoticed are his
pitching skills. Lubanski also gives the Wolverines a consistent,
experienced pitcher, which is a valuable commodity. He teams up with
Souderton transfer Jon Smolinsky to form a very strong 1-2 punch on the pitching
mound. Smolinksy is expected to make a large impact for KK.
Smolinsky was rated by Baseball America as the sixth best high school senior
pitching prospect in all of Pennsylvania, ahead of such other PCL stars as LaSalles Dan
Waters and Carrolls Gailey. Therefore, expect for Smolinksy
to make a big splash in the PCL this year. A well-established, strong
pitching combo is something that KK possessed that Carroll does not have on paper.
This could become a very important strength for KK. Their
pitching combo of Lubanski and Smolinksy is probably the best pitching combo in the
league. However, this is a new league for Smolinksy and he has to adapt
to the new players and live up to expectations for KK to flourish. Sean
McManus is also expected to see some time on the mound. The
Wolverines offensive attack should revolve around the potent bat of Lubanski.
Just by having Lubasnki the offense is dangerous. However,
players will need to step up to protect Lubanski so that he will see some pitches to hit.
If the batters around Lubanski are not producing, pitchers will not throw to
Lubanski. KK returns 2B Brian Rainone. Smolinksy
also plays third base. However, like Carroll, KK has lost a wealth of talented hitters
such as Dan Rafferty, Mike Rafferty, Mike Romano, and Joe Zazworskey.
Newcomers will have to step up to replace their shoes as well as to provide
protection for the talented bat of Lubanski.
Questions: Will Smolinksy adapt
quickly to the new league and develop into a strong Catholic League pitcher? Will
KK be able to develop hitters to provide protection for Lubanski?
Projection: Like Carroll, KK is a perennially strong program that knows how to win.
They have the best player in the league in Lubanski as well as a strong
pitching transfer in Smolinksy. KK should battle Carroll for the top of
the South. Dont be surprised to see KK knock Carroll to the
second place of the division behind their two stellar pitchers. This is
the year for KK to win the PCL championship, while Lubanski is still around.
Catholic: Roman finished last season at 9-9, behind the big 4 of Carroll, OHara,
Bonner, and KK. Judging from their returning talent, I expect an
improvement for the Cahillites. The talent is there this season for
Roman. As long as they play together and develop team chemistry, there
is no reason why they should not make the playoffs this year. Roman
returns standout starting pitcher Matt Daley, who throws smoke. Daley
started off quite strong last year, but faded towards the end of the season, as he threw
quite a large amount of innings last year. Daley must be used with good
judgment. When hes fresh, hes as dominant as any pitcher in
the league. I feel Daley will have a definite first team All Catholic
season. OF Anthony Capella may also see some time on the mound
this year. Capella had a very strong arm and may need to develop into a
strong number two pitcher for Roman to contend. They lost pitchers Pat
Trunfio and Pete Doyle from last year, so either they need to develop someone
from last years JV squad or have Capella develop into a strong two starter.
If the pitching is there, this will be a very strong team, because they
return some experienced hitters. Capella made second team All Catholic
outfielder last year and possesses a powerful bat. The move of Capella
down in the batting order took the pressure off him and allowed him to have quite a
productive season. Roman also returns their cleanup hitter, catcher Jim
McKeany, who possesses a powerful bat. SS Chris Corkery has
experience from last year, as does OF Jerry Reed. Roman has an
experienced offense returning, as well as an ace in Daley. They should
be right in the mix in the playoff race behind Carroll and KK.
Questions: Can Roman develop
another starting pitcher, such as Capella? Can they gel as a team so
that they have a decent shot to make the playoffs?
Projection: This years Roman team intrigues me. After
Carroll and KK, the final two playoff spots in the South are up for grabs. I
can see Roman taking advantage of this situation and grabbing one of these playoff spots,
behind the arm of Daley and their experienced hitters. I see Roman
nabbing one of the 2 final playoff spots, as long as they develop some additional pitching
other than Daley and do not overuse Daley.
Monsignor Bonner: Bonner
returns some solid veterans from a very good team from 2002. Returning
veterans include pitcher Kevin Horning, OF Frank Nunan, and SS Mike
Shalon. As is to be expected with every team, they lost quality
talent as well, such as Randy Milia, Nick Condo, Paul Kolhoff, Tim
DOrazio, and Jason Smith. However, I feel that this
years Bonner team has the makeup to have a solid season. The
lefty throwing Horning is a pitcher with very good experience. He has a
good makeup and knows how to win on the mound. However, with the
graduation of Milia, who Horning shared the spotlight on the mound with the past 2
seasons, Horning now must take full control. He will be the main man on
the mound to guide the Friars back into the playoffs. Horning
also saw time in the outfield when not pitching and should resume that role again this
year, or possibly see time at first base. Nunan is another player with
lots of talent and experience, as he was the number three hitter in the order last year as
a junior and the leadoff hitter as a sophomore. Nunan is a talented
athlete who has some pop in has bat. He will be counted on to produce
offense even more so this year. Shalon is a very solid defensive
shortstop, who will also need to be productive at the plate for the Friars to score some
runs this year. Like many other teams in the PCL, Bonner will need to
develop a solid second starting pitcher. Horning is an established
winner, but they will need at least one other pitcher to establish himself this year.
As it looks now, Bonner has some decent ingredients for success: a proven
pitcher (Horning), a solid hitter (Nunan), and a consistent shortstop (Shalon).
However, questions marks abound as well, as many holes will need to be
filled in the field as well as on the mound. This Bonner team has
promise, but it all depends if new players will step up and fill the roles of departed
Questions: Can Bonner develop
some new offensive talent? Can they find a quality second pitcher
Projection: Bonner should be right in the playoff mix. As I have
stated earlier, I feel that after Carroll and KK, the Southern division playoff race
should be wide open. If Bonner develops decent new players, they should
make the playoffs, as they already have a few quality veterans in place. Bonner
should be battling for a playoff spot and be amongst the contenders to get that spot this
Of all the teams in the PCL, I think OHara will be the one most hurt by
graduation. Last year OHara had a very talented team, finishing
14-4 in the regular season (tied for first with Carroll). However, they
lose star 1B/ Pitcher Ted Rydesky, slick SS Mike Essery, home run machine Mark
Barrar, and leadoff hitter Fran Burbidge. That is a lot of
talent to lose. OHara returns lefty pitcher Mike Antonini,
last years number three pitcher. Last year Antonini threw a
perfect game against West Catholic and had some solid pitching performances. However,
it is a big jump from three pitcher to one, but that is what Antonini must do this year.
Last year I was really impressed by 2B Brian Campbell, who returns
this year. Campbell possesses a cannon arm for second base, and is a
solid fielder overall. He teamed with Essery to form, in my opinion,
the best DP combo in the league last year. He also hit well last year,
and will be counted upon this year as well. Also returning in the field
if 3B Joe DiMenna. OHara also returns pitcher Kevin
Paul. OHara has numerous holes to fill for this years
team, but this is a solid program so dont expect them to lie down for anyone.
Question: Can Antonini develop into a
number one pitcher?
Projection: Based just on paper, this OHara team looks like it may struggle.
A lot of talent has departed and they do not possess an abundance of
experienced veterans. They have a few experienced pitchers, which is a
plus. However, their lineup appears decimated from graduation.
For OHara to compete this year, players that did not see too much
varsity time or who played JV must really step up. OHara has a
decent program, so do not count them out of the playoff competition, but players must
really step up to make that a reality.
St. Joes Prep: The Prep has had a banner year
in sports thus far, winning PCL championships in both football and basketball.
This years Prep team will feature an abundance of young, inexperienced
talent. Gone are superstars 1B Eric Smith and OF Pete
Chromiak. The Prep will not have many seniors on the team; they
will be a team predominantly filled with juniors. Returning from last
years 9-9 team is catcher Kevin Walker, who possesses an accurate arm.
Two juniors to look out for are OF Steve Loke and SS Rob McDonnell,
who both saw significant time as sophomores on the varsity squad. Loke
possesses a quick, powerful bat while McDonnell is a steady hitter and fielder.
Many juniors may make up the rest of the lineup, and the success of these
young players could determine the Preps success. On the mound,
the Prep returns pitcher Joe McElwee, a control pitcher who saw some success last
year as a sophomore. Also look out for John Coury, a hard
throwing lefty and Jim Fee, a senior righty. The Prep will be a
young, talented team and the development of their young players will reflect closely the
Question: Can young players like Loke, McDonnell, and McElwee continue to develop
and lead Prep baseball back to winning ways?
This is an intriguing Prep team. One can look at the team on paper and
dismiss them right away, but they very well might catch a lot of teams by surprise.
They have a lot of young, talented players eager to make a splash on the
varsity scene. However, this may be a tough year for the Prep, as they
may have to become accustomed to young and inexperienced mistakes. Like
every team in the division besides West, the Prep has a chance to make the playoffs.
However, their abundance of young talent must come through for this to
Neumann: This could be a very dangerous team. Neumann has always
been very scrappy under energetic head coach Gaeton Lucibello. They
have always battled hard and not bowed down to anyone. This year they
return some decent players into the mix. 1B Jimmy Porecca, a
second team All Catholic from last year, returns. Porecca has a very
strong bat, and should be in the mix for first team All Catholic first basemen.
OF Billy Canady also returns. In my mind, Canady
will be the fastest base runner in the entire PCL. This guy can
absolutely fly. He is dangerous anytime he puts the ball in play.
Look for Canady to ignite the Pirates from the top of the order.
Also returning is catcher Tom Daly, who enjoyed a solid junior
season. On the mound, RHP John Brady returns, giving the Pirates
a pitcher that has some experience. All in all, this could be a very
successful year for Neumann. Look for them to improve from their 4-14
record from last year. Unquestionably this will be a scrappy, hustling
team but they may become very dangerous as well.
Question: The main question for
Neumann is whether they can develop enough pitching to compete in the ultra competitive
Southern division. The offense should be there.
Projection: Like the aforementioned teams, Neumann should be competitive in the
South. They have enough talented returning players to make a run for
the playoffs. Teams should not take Neumann lightly since they are
coming off a 4-14 season. It is not unreasonable for Neumann to secure
the final spot into the playoffs.
West Catholic: This should be yet again a tough
year for the Burrs. West is coming off an 0-18 season and has not had
success in recent years. They simply do not enough players interested
in baseball. They lose a decent, hard working player in 2B Dennis
Morrow. Last years West team showed spirit and desire, but
they just did not have the talent to compete. However, their approach
to the game was to be respected by all. They approached and played the
game hard, the right way. This years West team needs to display
that same spirit, but they must also possess some talented players to turn this program on
the winning track.
Question: Can West find some
players to turn the program around?
Projection: Sadly, I see another hard season for West. I am sure
they will play the game hard and with spirit, like last year, but if they do not
significantly improve finding players, they will find themselves at the bottom of the
South once again.
La Salle: La
Salle should once again be at the top of the Northern Division. They
return last years Northern Division MVP, OF-P Dan Waters, who has committed
to University of Maryland for baseball. Waters brings smoke.
He is a hard throwing lefty, who really had a breakout year last year.
He developed into the Explorers ace pitcher. He had a
rough game in the Catholic League Championship against Carroll, but do not let one game
deter you: Waters is a dominant pitcher. He is the type of horse that
can lead a team through the playoffs. He also is a dangerous hitter,
with a lot of power in his bat. He batted cleanup for last years
team. He is one of the best players in the PCL. Also
returning is the middle infield of 2B Tony Liberatore and SS Andrew Carnevale.
Liberatore batted leadoff last year. He is exceptionally
fast, and has surprising pop in his bat. Carnevale played shortstop
when graduate John Reifsynder pitched. Carnevale is steady in
the field and should team with Liberatore to form a nice DP combo. Also
returning is 3B Pat Riley, giving the Explorers a very strong infield. OF
Kevin McLoughlin also returns. This should be a very strong La
Salle team, with many experienced and talented players in the field, as well as a bona
fide ace in Waters.
Question: Who will be the
Explorers number two pitcher?
Projection: La Salle should finish at the top of the Northern Division, most likely
as the number one seed. They have a very solid lineup, as well as a
dominating pitcher in Waters. La Salle definitely should advance far
into the playoffs, and have a very good chance to make it to the championship.
Archbishop Ryan: Ryan started off last season at 1-6 but made an improbable run
not only to do the playoffs but all the way to the semifinals, where they only lost 5-3 to
eventual champion Carroll. Ryan was led this far into the season by
P-OF Tom Dolan, who received first Team All Catholic at both outfield and pitcher
as a sophomore. Dolan is a lefty pitcher that really knows how to
pitch. He has very good stuff and composure for a young pitcher.
He is a bona fide ace pitcher, and if he dominates come playoff time, this
Ryan can advance far. He also is an excellent hitter. Ryan
also returns two other junior pitchers with experience from last years playoff run,
RHP Fran Schick and RHP Mike Szelagowski. Thus, Ryan had
a fairly deep, experienced pitching staff. That is often the key to
success. The pitching staff alone should make Ryan very competitive.
They have a solid ace in Dolan but also have other quality pitchers as well.
Ryan still will need to score some runs, and they will need to have some
additional offense outside of hard-hitting Dolan.
Question: Who will replace offense talent such as Mike Pekach, Andy
MacDonald, and George Higginson?
Projection: This should be a very competitive Ryan squad. Last
year was a very talented team, but they almost entirely relied on the arm of Dolan to lead
them into the playoffs and deep into them. Thus, Dolan proved he can
lead a team to victory. With another year of experience under his belt,
Dolan should be even more capable. Ryan also has other solid pitchers,
and their pitching staff alone should keep them in all games. If they
develop some hard-hitting offensive talent, watch out because they could be a championship
Conwell-Egan: Egan returns two experienced pitchers in RHP Mike Kane and
RHP Todd Puzycki. Kane received second team All Catholic honors
last year. Both pitchers bring decent experience to the table.
Having two experienced pitchers is a luxury that many PCL teams do not have.
They should keep Egan in most games. Egan also returns C Matt
Fischer, OF Tim Carroll, 2B Ryan Moran, and 3B Nick Costello.
Thus, the offense is fairly experienced as well. Egan
definitely has the overall talent to make it into the playoffs. Look
for another solid season for Egan.
Question: Can Egan compete with the ranks of LaSalle with Waters pitching or Ryan
with Dolan pitching?
Projection: Once again, the Northern division will probably not be as strong as the
South. Therefore, the playoff race should be wide open. Egan
is a definite candidate to make it to the playoffs. They may compete
quite competitively with Ryan for that second spot or maybe even LaSalle for the first.
Egan will be a dangerous team this year.
Bishop McDevitt: McDevitt
returns number one pitcher Bob Mitros. Mitros really stepped up
last year and had a very productive year. Once again he will be the
main man for the Lancers. Also on the mound is returning RHP Chuck
McGlaughlin. Also returning is catcher Andrew Kovach. Kovach
has tremendous varsity experience and is a fine hitter. However,
McDevitt has many holes to fill in the field as well as behind Mitros on the mound.
For McDevitt, to really flourish this year, they need Mitros to lead then to
victory and to Kovach to be an offensive leader.
Archbishop Wood: Wood returns a solid senior middle infield, in SS Justin
Cunnane and 2B Matt Connolly. They will be counted on to
spark and ignite this team. Also returning for Wood is C Travis Roth,
who has decent pop in his bat. Woods offense should be decent,
despite the losses of Dan Mueller, Matt OConnor, and Kyle Brennecke.
However, their pitching is a major question mark. They
will need some quality arms in order to make the playoff.
Question: Will McDevitt have enough offense to make the
Projection: McDevitt should be right on the edge of playoffs. With
some new talent playing well, they could very well sneak into that fourth spot.
However, there are many holes to fill. These holes must
be filled for any chance at the playoffs.
Question: Can Wood find some pitchers to lead them into the playoffs?
Projection: I think Wood will be battling with numerous teams for that final
playoff spot in the North. That spot is up for grabs and Wood has
enough returning talent to make a run for it. However, they need
pitching. Expect some epic battles between rivals Wood and McDevitt to
nab that final spot.
Catholic: North struggled to a 4-14 record last year. They return
SS Dan Paluch, a fine hitter that enjoyed a solid season last year. Paluch
was second Team All Catholic last year and will most likely be Norths most talented
hitter this season. Other experienced hitters that are returning are Mike
Karpovich, Stan Orzechowski, and Craig Kubis return. Also
returning on the mound are pitchers Justin Etsell, Shaun Gallagher, and
Kubis. These returning players suffered through a rough season last
year. However, they come back with experience and hopefully insight.
Look for North to improve significantly this year, as long as they gel
together as a team.
Question: Can pitchers such as Etsell and Gallagher, who struggled last year, use
their experience to lead North to a winning record?
Projection: North finished last season in last place. However,
it is not beyond possibility for North to have a large improvement this year. They
have key players returning. However, there is still a chance for
another long year if they do not come together as a team.
Father Judge: Judge
had an abundance of pitching talent last year in Paul Koenig, John Keller, and Joe
Cione. However, in my opinion, they underachieved, as they were
left out of the playoffs with an 8-10 record. They definitely had the
talent to make the playoffs. However, this year their pitching will be
very much a question mark. One player that did enjoy a fine season last
year that is returning is catcher Dale Curry. Curry is a big
catcher with a strong arm. He also possesses a big bat. 2B
Don Winterbottom also returns. Last years Judge team was
very talented yet underachieved. This years Judge team is not
nearly as talented. However, they have the potential to do better than
last years team if they play solidly as a team.
Question: Can Judge find
pitchers to keep them competitive?
Projection: This could be a long year for Judge, based on paper alone. However,
paper cannot judge a teams character and heart. It is these
intangibles that Judge must develop to make the playoffs. The final playoff
spot is open for everyone.
Dougherty: In the field, Dougherty returns 2B Josh Guevara and Dan Metague.
Guevara had a fine season as a sophomore and will be expected to ignite the
lineup. On the mound, Dougherty returns pitchers Jose Medina and
Chris Jackson. That should be the foundation for a decent
pitching staff. Dougherty has some pieces in place for a successful
Question: Can Medina and Jackson
lead Dougherty to a playoff spot?
Projection: This Dougherty team could be very dangerous. They
have some decent hitters as well as a few decent pitchers. Look for
them to be in the running all season long for a playoff berth.