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Last updated: March 24. 2014 11:38PM - 2875 Views
By Bill Arsenault For The Times Leader



Tunkhannock grad Mike Papi is leading the University of Virginia in a number of offensive categories, including home runs, runs batted in and batting average.
Tunkhannock grad Mike Papi is leading the University of Virginia in a number of offensive categories, including home runs, runs batted in and batting average.
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The University of Virginia baseball team is ranked third in the country and leading the way is junior Mike Papi.


Papi (Tunkhannock) is hitting .351 with three doubles, five home runs, 22 runs and 22 RBI. He leads the Cavaliers in every one of those categories except doubles. But hitting is nothing new to the 6-foot-3, 210-pound outfielder/first baseman. He hit .381 with six home runs and 55 RBI last season, and was named a first-team All-American by the American Baseball Coaches Association.


“I think Mike is a more mature player than he was last year,” coach Brian O’Connor said. “He’s in a role now where certainly everybody knows who he is and knows what he’s capable of doing.”


The coach realizes that Papi has a tough act to follow after last season’s success.


“But I think Mike’s so talented he’s capable of doing it,” O’Connor said. “He’s done some really great things for us. You feel pretty good with that guy at the plate.”


The Cavaliers are 18-4 overall and 6-2 in the ACC. They host Virginia Tech in three league games this weekend in Charlottesville.


BIG START FOR VAN HORN – Junior Candice Van Horn (Hazleton Area) is hitting .478 for the Coppin State softball team and has hit safely in her last 13 games. She has 22 hits in 46 at-bats, with a team-high six home runs along with team highs in runs (18) and RBI (14).


She’s also a standout shortstop and does some relief pitching for the 3-11 Eagles.


“Candice is the player that makes our team go,” coach Larry Hineline said. “She does so many things well. She’s a five-tool player – she fields, throws, hits, hits for power and runs very well.”


The coach also believes that Van Horn has a tremendous softball IQ.


“The other players look up to her and she helps get the best out of them,” Hineline said. “She is very coachable and a deserved team captain.”


Senior catcher Gabriel Ziller (Hazleton Area) is also a leader on the team. She’s hitting .278 (10-for-36) with two doubles, three RBI and five runs.


“Gabby brings a veteran approach to the game and has produced in the clutch numerous times,” Hineline said. “She keeps the team loose as well as on their toes. She has pop in her bat, yet she is our best bunter. She’s a key component for our team.”


BIG GAME FOR SAVAKINUS – Junior Josh Savakinus (Pittston Area) collected four hits with a double and run scored to lead the La Salle baseball team to a 3-0 Atlantic-10 Conference victory over Massachusetts last Sunday.


Savakinus, an infielder, is hitting .311 (19-for-61) with four doubles, two triples, six runs and six RBI in his first season with the Explorers, who are 4-18 overall and 1-2 in league play. In the field, he’s made just two errors on 64 chances (.963 fielding percentage).


“Josh is a hard worker,” coach Mike Lake said. “He spends a lot of time working on his hitting, defense and especially in the weight room.”


The coach said that Savakinus has a rah-rah nature.


“That’s evident because he’s always talking it up in the dugout,” Lake said. “We’re really happy and excited to have him here because he’s the type of player and person we want in our program.”


STASKIEL’S VERSATILE – Sophomore Abby Staskiel (Holy Redeemer) is pitching and playing in the field for the PSU-Berks softball team.


The right-hander is 2-1 with a 4.67 earned run average in three complete-game starts. In 18 innings, she’s given up 24 hits and 14 runs (12 earned), with four walks and eight strikeouts. At the plate, she’s hitting .192 (5-for-26) with eight RBI. She had a triple, double and four RBI in a 9-4 victory over Emmanuel.


“Abby has proven to be a very flexible player for us,” coach Donna Ference said. “She’s pitched, started in the outfield as well as playing third base and second base. She is willing to play wherever she is needed to help the team. And, she has helped us at the plate with some key hits.”


The Defenders are 6-4 thus far this season.


SICK’S ON A ROLL – Junior Louis Sick (Tunkhannock) gave up two earned runs in his first pitching effort this season but has been rock solid of late for the Mansfield baseball team.


In his last three games, the 6-foot-2, 160-pound right-hander, has worked eight innings and given up just two unearned runs – those coming in a 7-3 loss to Slippery Rock. In four games, he has a 1.69 earned run average, working 10.2 innings and giving up eight hits, five runs, two earned, with six walks and five strikeouts.


“Louis has looked great this spring,” coach Larry Hillson said. “He has been consistent and he has improved his command of all of his pitches. He’s been a real bright spot.”


The Mountaineers are 10-5 on the season.


BERTONI KEYING HUSKIES – Junior Sarah Bertoni, a transfer from Millersville, is off to a great start with the Bloomsburg softball team.


Bertoni (Nanticoke) is hitting .481 (13-for-27) with a double, triple, two home runs and five RBI. She’s also scored 12 times. In the circle, she’s 2-1 with a 1.62 earned run average. She’s worked 26 innings and given up 30 hits and 13 runs (six earned), with three walks and 19 strikeouts.


“Sarah brings a great amount of PSAC experience with her,” coach Susan Kocher said. “She’s a smart pitcher with tremendous control of her pitches and the ability to keep opponents off balance. She’s also has a strong bat and will contribute to the offense.”


Bertoni was a starting pitcher in her two seasons with Millersville and was 15-10 last season.


Juniors Erika Yanora (Tunkhannock) and Mandi Black (Northwest) are also solid members of the team. Yanora, the team’s shortstop, is hitting .314 (16-for-51) with six doubles, a home run, nine runs and 11 RBI.


“Erika is a super athlete and she’s playing with a lot of confidence and leadership,” Kocher said.


Black is 1-1 with a 3.89 ERA in three starts for the Huskies, who are 10-5 on the season.


“Mandi’s a hard worker and has a lot of natural ability,” Kocher said. “Everything is coming together for her which is allowing her to play with more consistency.”


RUBASKY IMPROVING – Sophomore Hannah Rubasky (Nanticoke) has pitched in five games with three starts for the 1-6 Concordia softball team. She has a 1-1 record with a 2.92 earned run average. In 24 innings, she’s given up 24 hits and 17 runs (10 earned), with 13 walks and 13 strikeouts.


“Hannah is a dedicated athlete and she works at her craft daily and is constantly looking to improve her game,” coach Kathy Laoutaris said. “She has not only improved her pitching but has been working on her batting and I believe we will really need her bat this year.”


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