High school baseball season is scheduled to open this week. Pittston Area is in Division 1 with Coughlin, Hazleton, Berwick, Valley West and Crestwood. Wyoming Area is in Division 2 with Holy Redeemer, Lake-Lehman, Dallas and Tunkhannock.
Each team plays its division opponents twice and one game with the opposite division. That gives WA 14 games and PA 15.
The teams are scheduled to play each other on April 16 at Pittston Area, which will be the Andy Ashby game.
The Patriots are scheduled to open league play Tuesday at home against Crestwood if field and weather conditions permit.
Same deal for the Warriors. They are scheduled to open at home versus Tunkhannock on Thursday.
Pittston Area baseball coach Paul Zaffuto has high praise for his team, but also the opposition it will face in the upcoming season.
The Patriots enter the season with what Zaffuto describes as one of the most talented teams in his 14 seasons as head coach and one he expects to be in contention for a District 2 Class AAA title. Before that can happen, however, Pittston Area will have to compete in the realigned Division 1 of the Wyoming Valley Conference.
“The problem that we have is even having the best team we’ve had in a long time, we’re probably at the bottom of our division as far as talent,” Zaffuto said. “We got placed in what I think is probably the toughest division in eastern Pennsylvania.”
Zaffuto sees many players from around the state during his time in AAU baseball.
“The conference we’re playing in right now is probably the toughest I’ve seen in a long time,” he said. “Every game is going to be like playing in a championship game.”
The Patriots will play twice each against division rivals Hazleton Area, Coughlin, Berwick, Crestwood and Wyoming Valley West and once each against Division 2 members Wyoming Area, Holy Redeemer, Tunkhannock, Dallas and Lake-Lehman.
Hazleton Area edged Pittston Area and Coughlin by a game for the WVC Division 1 East title last season. Wyoming Valley West, the defending District 2 Class AAAA champion, and Berwick were 1-2 in the WVC Division 1 West with better records than any of the East teams.
A major position change will be one of the keys as Pittston Area tries to keep up with the challenging schedule.
Junior Pat McGinty moves to catcher.
“We’re moving a possible Division I shortstop to play catcher,” Zaffuto said.
McGinty still needs game experience at the position, but Zaffuto said his offseason testing at the position after working at camps has already established him as a major prospect at catcher.
Helping to make the move possible is that senior Felix Mascelli has been a capable backup at shortstop the past two seasons. While filling in one game at second base last season, Mascelli provided the game-winning hit.
Junior first baseman Josh Razvillas has started since his freshman year and is another player who remains active in the travel circuit outside of the high school season.
Senior Jordan Houseman could be the WVC’s best second baseman, according to Zaffuto. The returning starter has been working on preparing for baseball season since football ended.
Third baseman Dustin Martinelli, another senior, is ready to move into the starting lineup for the first time.
The outfield is also lacking starting experience, but Zaffuto says it is loaded with potential.
“This outfield is the quickest and probably the best all-together as a unit that I have had in my 14 years,” Zaffuto said.
Michael Delaney, the team’s fastest player, made one start last season as a freshman.
Junior Michael Schwab will pitch and play the outfield.
Michael Carey, another junior, moved into the starting lineup for three games then was hurt last year.
Cody Roman, a strong-armed senior, saw some playing time last season.
Schwab, the team captain, will be the number-one pitcher. He had a strong effort in the District 2 Class AAA quarterfinals last season when Berwick ended the Patriots’ season, 3-2.
The rest of the pitching rotation will need to be worked out.
Zaffuto hopes to use junior Matt Mott in relief as a closer.
Juniors Danny Constantino and Justin Glasgow and sophomores Tyler McGarry and John Faggotti are vying for other starting pitching assignments.
Seniors Nick Bolka and John Kielbosa are working at designated hitter.
Wyoming Area will fill almost every position on the baseball field with seniors who have experience as starters.
On the mound, however, the Warriors will have nothing but new faces, relying at times on players who have established themselves elsewhere.
“We lost our pitching from last year so pitching is going to be the question mark,” Warriors coach Chick Androscavage said.
There are few question marks elsewhere for the Warriors, who went 9-5 in WVC Division 1 West last season, finishing third of five teams, behind Wyoming Valley West and Berwick but ahead of Tunkhannock and Dallas.
Wyoming Area, which won one playoff game before losing to Coughlin in the District 2 Class AAA quarterfinals, is in Division 2 after WVC realignment. The other Division 2 teams are Holy Redeemer, Lake-Lehman, Tunkhannock and Dallas.
“Tunkhannock and Dallas are always good,” Androscavage said. “Holy Redeemer gives us a hard time every year. Lake-Lehman is new to our division but they have a good program.”
Catcher Trent Grove, first baseman Bart Chupka, second baseman Michael Carey, shortstop Jake Granteed and outfielder Erik Walkowiak are all seniors who started last year.
Senior third baseman Jordan Zezza started early last season before being injured. He is expected to miss the start of this season with an injury.
Bucknell football recruit, Nick O’Brien, another senior, started in the outfield in 2011 but did not play last year.
Sophomores Jake Gavenonis and Marty Michaels will spend time at third base until Jordan Zezza returns.
Seniors Tyler Wrubel and Brian Mates and sophomore Zack Lopatka are newcomers to the outfield where additional playing time could be available depending on who is pitching.
“Our pitching is going to be filled with position players like Granteed, Walkowiak and Carey, along with Jeremy Zezza, Gavenonis and Lopatka,” Androscavage said. “We’ll try to find somebody out of that pack.”
If the pitching materializes, Wyoming Area should have enough experience defensively and at the plate to find success.
April 2 vs. Crestwood
April 4 at Coughlin
April 8 vs. Hazleton
April 10 at Berwick
April 12 at Valley West
April 16 vs. Wyoming Area
April 22 vs. Tunkhannock
April 24 at Lake Lehman
April 29 vs. Holy Redeemer
May 1 at Dallas
May 3 vs. Berwick
May 7 at Crestwood
May 9 at Hazleton
May 13 vs. Valley West
May 15 vs. Coughlin
April 4 vs. Tunkhannock
Apirl 8 at Lake Lehman
April 10 vs. Holy Redeemer
April 12 at Dallas
April 16 at Pittston Area
April 18 vs. Crestwood
April 21 vs. Coughlin (PNC)
April 24 vs. Hazleton
April 29 at Valley West
May 1 at Berwick
May 3 at Holy Redeemer
May 9 vs. Lake Lehman
May 13 vs. Dallas
May 15 at Tunkhannock