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April 02. 2013 3:30PM

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Abington Heights High School baseball team finished last season with a 7-8 overall record (7-7 in Lackawanna League Division 1) and despite losing several key players to graduation, head coach Bill Zalewski believes they can be a factor in the division.

“I think we can be very tough,” he said. “They are a very, very hard working group and a real tight group of kids who hang out off the field and push each other to be better players.”

The Comets returning starters include senior shortstop/pitcher Kevin Elwell, senior second baseman/pitcher Dante Pasqualichio, senior outfielder Josh Slocum, sophomore pitcher/outfielder Tyler Ksiazek and junior pitcher Dave Manasek.

Other retuning players who should see significant playing time include junior first baseman/designated hitter Justin Porpiglia, junior catcher Scott Salmon, junior pitcher/outfielder Brad Smertz, junior infielder/pitcher Matt Heckman and sophomore pitcher Zach Manasek.

Zalewski thinks the team’s versatility can play into their favor.

“A lot of guys are duel-position players,” he said.

The Comets must replace catcher Connor Pacyna, third baseman Brandon Pacyna, first baseman Eric Montella, outfielder Jerry Burke, pitcher/third baseman Jason Subasic, pitcher/first baseman Robbie Eyre and catcher Nico Surace.

Abington Heights will open its league season April 3 at Scranton Prep at 4:30 p.m.

Lackawanna Trail

Lackawanna Trail Lions finished last season with a 13-4 overall record and defeated Old Forge to win the District 2 Class A title.

The Lions return senior infielder Ben McLaughlin, senior pitcher/infielder Pete Murazzi, senior outfielder Vic Rosa, junior pitcher/first baseman Matt Flynn and sophomore shortstop Liam Dougherty.

They must replace pitcher/outfielder Matt Aten, pitcher/first baseman Steve Miller, third baseman Bruce Benko, catcher Ben Lehman and outfielder Caleb Darling.

Head coach Todd Peters expects juniors Jon Zedar and Brian Tuft to contribute as pitchers/outfielders, sophomore Cooper Rosiak is expected to start at catcher and sophomore Jason Guthrie should see time at third base. Sophomore Jared Phillips will be in the mix at first base, junior Brian Kearney will see time in the outfield and Billy Lee at second base.

“A lot of our guys don’t have a lot of experience, but I expect them to work hard and start gelling together,” Peters said. “We lost some big arms off our pitching staff, so we definitely have to play good defense and catch the ball and score runs when we have the opportunity. Whether it’s hitting, bunting or stealing bases, we have to play every aspect of the game well in order to win games this year.”

The Lions will begin their league schedule April 4 at home vs. Susquehanna.

Scranton Prep

The Cavaliers finished last season with a 7-8 overall record (7-7 in Lackawanna Division 1) and were defeated by Nanticoke in the first round of the District 2 playoffs.

They return senior right fielder Chris Gaetano, senior center fielder Jim Graziosi, senior third baseman Matt Sompel, senior first baseman Mark Fetter, senior pitchers Jake Stafursky and Alex Anzelmi, junior second baseman John Joe Gustin and junior catcher Nick Preston.

The team must replace shortstop Brian O’Donnell, left fielder Mike McDonald and designated hitter Fran Notarianni.

Ross had been impressed with the development of several players since last season.

“We’re really happy with senior outfielder Ryan Gerrity and some of the kids coming up from junior varsity, including sophomore Dan Ryan, who may begin the season as the starter at shortstop, and junior Seth Stafursky, who may see action at multiple positions,” Ross said.

Ross is hopeful that the wealth of experience returning this season will pay dividends on the field.

“We have a pretty strong nucleus coming back with six starters and our top two pitchers,” he said. “We will miss the leadership of the seniors who graduated, but expects other to step into that role.

“We’re cautiously optimistic and expect to compete in every game.”

Ross was satisfied with the effort in the team’s first scrimmage against Riverside.

“We did some good things, but we also have some things to work on,” he said. “Our pitchers threw strikes for the most part and our hitters got some pretty good at-bats.”

“We can swing the bats a little bit and we can run a little bit.”

Scranton Prep will open its league schedule April 3 at 4:30 vs. Abington Heights at home.


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