Just when the Wyoming Valley Conference finally warmed up, now it has to dry out.
After a handful of games were postponed during opening week because of miserably cold weather, the second week of the league slate ended with Friday’s schedule being washed out.
In other words, there haven’t been a ton of games played to draw conclusions from. With that as a caveat, here are some early impressions from around the league.
High hopes in Berwick
With nearly the entire lineup from last season’s district runner-up squad returning, Berwick was going to be one of the WVC’s best in 2013.
The senior-laden group calls to mind the Bulldogs’ 2008 state championship team, and the team is well aware that much is expected.
“Last year they got a taste of it,” coach Brian Pinterich said after Berwick opened league play with a 13-1 win at Wyoming Valley West. “Certainly there’s no doubt — we’re not afraid to say it — the expectations are high. There’s no doubt. But I think they’re handling it very well.”
Berwick has opened the WVC season 3-0, showing it can win big (against Valley West) and also hold its own in tight contests, stopping a late Coughlin rally to beat the Crusaders 4-3.
But the biggest confidence boost came in the preseason. The Bulldogs headed to New Jersey in March and came back with an impressive scalp, beating a well-regarded Immaculata program 7-5.
“They’re a powerhouse team in New Jersey. And that was the first time on a baseball field for us,” Pinterich said. “And I thought to myself, ‘Whoa.’ That was their 16th game. That was our first time out, and we ended up beating them.
“Right from there, I think the kids saw that, ‘Hey — this could be something special.’ We set the tone right there.”
Dallas, Hanover take charge
While Berwick has the early lead in Division 1 of the WVC, Dallas and Hanover Area are also unbeaten in league play to sit atop Division 2 and Division 3, respectively.
For Hanover Area (4-0), the dominance is expected. The Hawkeyes have outscored opponents 42-3 in those four games, with only Nanticoke taking them the full seven innings. The other three contests ended early by the 10-run rule.
Like Berwick, Hanover Area has most of last season’s roster back in 2013. And the Hawkeyes haven’t lost a regular-season WVC contest since May 2011 after going 12-0 a year ago.
In the hunt for a District 2 Class 2A title this season, the Hawkeyes held their own in the preseason against bigger programs in the area, narrowly losing to 3A Berwick and drawing even with 4A Valley West.
As for Dallas, the Mountaineers are 3-0 after going 2-12 last season. The bats are hot to open the campaign, highlighted by five home runs.
The key to continued success, however, will be an experienced pitching staff led by senior ace Brian Stepniak, a Division I prospect who is verbally committed to Hartford.
“To me, you’ve got to start with what pitchers do you have back, and what pitchers have experience,” Dallas coach Ken Kashatus said after topping Holy Redeemer to start the week. “And fortunately for us, every pitcher on our staff from last year is back.
“Last year, our whole pitching staff was new, besides Stepniak. So last year was a big year for us (for development). Because usually when you come into the (varsity) program as a sophomore … you already have that year maybe throwing a little JV and working their way into the rotation. They didn’t have that. After Stepniak, these were our best guys.
“A trial by fire.”
The sample sizes aren’t much — most players have only around 10 at-bats in league play — but here’s a quick look at players to open the season hitting .500 in their first eight-plus at-bats:
• Sal Biasi (HAZ), Jared Dasher (MMI), Nick Deno (HAN), Joey Favata (BER), Cal Lisman (MEY), Patrick McGinty (PA), Kyle McHale (MEY), Anthony Melito (BER), Will Morales (BER), Domenic Oliveri (DAL), Christian Pack (HAN), Greg Petorak (DAL), Mike Sulcoski (DAL), Kevin Volkel (NW), Jack Windt (HAN), Ryan Zapoticky (DAL).
On the mound, the following pitchers have hit double digits in strikeouts:
• Kevin Evans (GAR), Josh Featherman (COU), Mickey Ferrence (HAN), Eric Gurzynski (NW), Matt Kaster (CRE), Joe Olszyk (NAN), Asa Saidman (SEM), Brian Stepniak (DAL).
Wyoming Valley West`1`3`0.250`10`33`2.5
Next week’s schedule
(Games begin at 4:15 p.m.)
Monday, April 15
Holy Redeemer at Wyoming Area (resumed)
Crestwood at Coughlin
Pittston Area at Wyoming Valley West
Hazleton Area at Berwick
Meyers at Wyoming Seminary
MMI Prep at GAR
Nanticoke at Northwest
Tuesday, April 16
Coughlin at Holy Redeemer
Lake-Lehman at Berwick
Wyoming Area at Pittston Area
Dallas at Hazleton Area
Tunkhannock at Crestwood
Wednesday, April 17
Wyoming Seminary at MMI Prep
Northwest at Meyers
GAR at Hanover Area
Thursday, April 18
Dallas at Wyoming Valley West
Lake-Lehman at Coughlin
Hazleton Area at Holy Redeemer
Crestwood at Wyoming Area
Berwick at Tunkhannock
Friday, April 19
Holy Redeemer at Tunkhannock