Senior Legion team ready for big season
There's a new look to the Jeannette Senior American Legion Baseball team this season, not to mention a new confidence and even a new home field.
Jeannette went 3-16-1 last year with a mostly young roster. However, those youngsters are now more seasoned players and they'll join with a handful of new team members to form what manager Jules Ponterio believes will Jeannette's most talented team in the three years since he took over the program.
“This is the most excited I've been in the three years since I've been here,” he said. “We have seven guys who played here before, and the guys coming in are good players. I'm more optimistic this year than I've been in the first two years.
“This is the most veteran, established team we've had. I'm excited, but let's let the chips fall where they may.”
Home games will move from Buster Clarkson Field to Hempfield Park this season. The amount of baseball teams using Buster Clarkson Field proved to create too many scheduling challengers, said Ponterio.
“Plus, now we'll be able to have night games,” he said.
As for the club itself, like all baseball teams, Jeannette will go as far as its pitching can take it. And Ponterio feel this year's pitching staff is deep and talented. Ponterio said his staff has four aces in Garret Elliott, Nick Spangler, Dylan Sabo and Tyler Stevenson.
“Those are four kids who can bring it,” said Ponterio. “I can start any one of them.”
Additionally, Ryan Demark and Dominic Disso give the team two quality relief pitchers.
In the field, Ponterio believes his outfield of Brady Cameron in left, Brandon Gernhardt in center and Sabo in right will be the team strength.
“All three can run, catch and throw,” said Ponterio.
Spangler will start at third base, and Disso will play shortstop and Robert Duffy will see most of the action at first. Adam Shorthouse and Stevenson will see action at second and throughout the infield.
Demark will handle most of the catching duties, and Stevenson can also play behind the plate. Jared Burch is another quality outfielder while Elliott will play “all over” when he's not pitching. Also on the team is Pat Cortazzo, who will miss much or all of the season following shoulder surgery.
Ponterio was not shy about stating his goal for the season.
“The first two years we talked about the (District 31) playoffs, but I didn't in my heart expect it,” he said. “It takes time to build a new team from scratch. This year, I'll be disappointed if we don't make it.”
Brian Knavish is a freelance writer.