The Bears Den

An Elizabethtown area sports blog

Friday, March 21, 2008

Baseball preview

(E-town's seniors are, bottom row from left, Steve Buller, Andrew Weller, Hayden Gerhart, Nick Reginella and Amir Boutorabi. Back row, from left, Mike O'Shea, Evan Gallagher, Erick Baker, Harrison Myers, Preston Faith, Daniel Brennian, Austin Rodriguez and Anthony Durante.)

Head Coach: Frank Telenko Jr., fifth season.

2007 Record: 8-12 overall, 8-8 league.

Key Returners: Erick Baker, senior, P/1B; Andrew Weller, senior, OF; Preston Faith, senior, P/OF; Anthony Durante, senior, OF/DH; Hayden Gerhart, senior, 2B/3B; Nick Reginella, senior, OF; Harrison Myers, senior, P/OF; Daniel Brennian, senior, OF; Amir Boutorabi, senior, OF; Steve Buller, senior, P; Austin Rodriguez, senior, SS/3B; Evan Gallagher, senior, SS; Michael O’Shea, senior, 3B/OF.
To say the Bears are a senior-laden team is almost an understatement. E-town’s lineup will be filled with experienced senior nearly every game, and Telenko expects them to be the leaders of the team.
“This group of seniors is a seasoned bunch,” he said. “They have grown a lot and hopefully have learned what it takes to win in the L-L League.”
The Bears return five Lancaster-Lebanon League all-stars from a year ago – Baker, Weller, Faith, Reginella and Gallagher – and their play will be E-town’s biggest key to a successful season.
The pitching staff will be anchored by Baker, Faith and Myers. Baker, a Division I recruit, has been working out hard in the offseason and throws very hard. He will be the ace of the staff. He’s had some arm troubles in the past, but those seem to be behind him and he should be primed for a huge season.
Faith is another excellent pitcher. With Baker limited last year with arm trouble, Telenko turned to Faith and he rewarded him by becoming a first-team league all-star. The 1-2 punch of Baker and Faith will certainly limit opposing teams and give the Bears’ offense a chance to chalk up some wins.
Myers has also grown from his experience at the varsity level and is another reliable pitcher that E-town can use. Buller will also see time on the mound, giving E-town four senior pitchers it can turn to, which will come in handy in mid-April when the Bears are playing games every other day.
Behind the pitchers, E-town’s defense should be solid. Gallagher will likely be the regular shortstop. He is a good fielder and will need to be the leader of the defense. Around him, Gerhart, Rodriguez and O’Shea are all good with the glove and form a solid infield defense. And they are versatile too. Gerhart can play second or third, Rodriguez can play shortstop or third and O’Shea can play third as well as outfield.
Weller, Brennian, Myers, Boutorabi and Reginella will see the majority of the time in the outfield. All have good arms and will need to communicate well to prevent runners from advancing on base hits or balls hit into the gap. Expect Reginella to be E-town’s regular centerfielder.
Offensively, these seniors provide a potent lineup. Weller is one of the best hitters of the bunch and will likely be patrolling left field on defense. Durante is big and bring lots of power. E-town also has plenty of speed with Gallagher, Rodriguez, Faith, Reginella, Gerhart and O’Shea.
Telenko said that many of these seniors have had success in other sports this school year, and is hoping they can continue with that. In fact, they’ve adopted the team motto of “Why not us?” But they need to come out all 20 games and play hard. The L-L League, and Section Two, is too strong to take games off.
“There are no days off and we need to be mentally focused for every play and every at bat,” he said. “This group is hungry for wins and we plan to do a lot of it this spring.”

Key Newcomers: Conrad Heisey, junior, C; Tyler Vuxta, junior, C; Shane Long, junior 1B; Anthony Rivera, junior, 2B; Weston Kobler, junior, 3B; Nico Givens, junior, 2B; Scott Sweigart, junior, P; Brian Savage, junior, OF/P.
When a team has as many seniors as the Bears do, underclassmen tend to have a more limited role, but they also get the experience of learning from the older players. That will be the case for most of E-town’s newcomers – but they never know when they will get their chance, and they’ll have to be prepared.
“Some of these guys may play a significant role and others will have a more limited role,” said Telenko. “They will need to learn and be ready when called upon.”
Heisey will be one of the underclassmen with a significant role, as he will likely handle the majority of the catching duties, taking over for Nate Martin. He has a little experience of playing at this level as he saw some time behind the plate last summer in American Legion ball. With experienced pitchers, however, Heisey can take a feel from the staff early on in the season when it comes to calling pitches and talking to them.
Long, Rivera, Kobler and Givens give the Bears some infield depth and Sweigart and Savage give E-town some more arms to use on the mound if they are needed.

Key Losses: Nate Martin, C; Gary Dupler, 3B; Ben Hernley, 2B.
E-town didn’t lose a lot of players from last year’s team, but they did lose some very important ones.
Martin was probably the team’s best player last year. He was a three-time L-L All-Star, an outstanding hitter, a very good catcher and a great team leader. E-town will certainly miss Martin’s bat, but his ability to call a game and his leadership will be missed as well.
Dupler was a first team all-star last year and was a good player offensively and defensively for E-town. Hernley was an excellent infielder, and their departures leave a gap in infield defense, but with E-town’s plethora of talented infielders, the Bears should be OK in that area.

What they do well: Pitching, defense, manufacturing runs.
The old saying in baseball is that good pitching beats good hitting. If that is true for the Bears this year, they are going to be tough to beat. E-town has a deep pitching staff that will be anchored by Baker, Faith and Myers, three tough hurlers. And if one of them are injured or is having a rough outing, Telenko has plenty of other options to go to.
The E-town pitching staff will improve on last season, when they allowed allowed 10 runs or more in nine of the team’s 20 games.
E-town should also field a solid defense that will limit unearned runs and will allow starting pitchers to go deeper into games. Most of the fielders now have a year of varsity experience under their belt and should be used to how hard the ball can be hit and how fast the runners are at this level.
Offensively, E-town has a nice balance of speed and power. They’ll be able to steal bases to put runners in scoring position for their RBI guys. They’ll have to be smart on the basepaths as well, and do the little things to move up when needed and get runs in easier.
They went 4-2 in their final six games last year, signs that the growing process has already begun.
“We won a few big games at the end of the season and seemed to be hitting our stride,” Telenko said. “We intend to keep it going and make some noise in Section Two, but it is all about heart and execution.”

What they need to work on: Learning how to win.
While the Bears did end the season on a positive note, they were still four games under .500 last year and lost some close game.
However, last year was the first time many of the team had seen varsity action as the Bears lost 11 players to graduation before the 2007 campaign. This year, they must learn from last year’s experiences and find a way to score in the late innings to pull out those important close victories.

E-town could very well be a team to watch in Section Two. They have all the right pieces in place to make a run at a section title and league and District Three tournament berths. But the key will be executing on the field. Telenko believes in them and, as a result, expects them to win. But he’s also injected some fun into the team so that they can stay loose on the field.
“I expect to develop lasting relationships with my players, teach them a thing or two about baseball and life, have fun while participating in a high school sport and win a bunch of games along the way,” he said.
The winning part of Telenko’s expectations should happen for E-town this year. They have just about everything you look for in a good high school baseball team. Good pitching, experience, a balanced hitting attack and a solid defense. If they can put it all together, the “Why not us?” motto will certainly be answered.
The Bears are also a close team. Most of these players have played together in the past and some have played other sports together, which will help the team attitude. They won’t be afraid of coming back and, with the amount of seniors, they will be there to pick each other up whenever they make a mistake.
One thing about baseball is that you can’t carry a fielding error to the plate with your or a strikeout to the field with you. Having a team as close as E-town will allow the players to forget about mistakes immediately and focus on helping the team in a different way. And that’s what separates good baseball teams from bad ones.
With all of the things E-town has going for it, expect the Bears to win anywhere from 13 to 16 games in the regular season and be in the hunt for a postseason berth this year. The coach certainly believes they can do it.
“Keep your eye on the Bears this year. We intend to turn some heads,” Telenko said.
Why not?



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