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Inexperienced Latrobe baseball team hoping to contend

| Tuesday, March 19, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Steph Anderson | Tribune-Review
Unity's Ray Sowinski catches a ground ball against Hempfield East in an American Legion game June 8, 2012 at Whitney Field. Sowinski is one of just two senior starters returning this season for Latrobe.

The Latrobe baseball team enters the 2013 season with a lot of question marks and new names in the its starting lineup.

A host of talented players, including several multiple-year starters, were lost to graduation. The majority of the Wildcats' infield, an outfield spot and two All-Section pitchers need replaced.

Latrobe finished a deceiving 8-11 overall last year and 6-6 in Section 2-AAAA.

And as coach Matt Basciano is aware, this normally isn't a recipe for success in the always tough section the Wildcats call home. Competing with the likes of perennial powers Norwin, Hempfield and Kiski Area can pose a lot of problems for a young team. Basciano, however, thinks there's enough talent for his team to not only be competitive but possibly compete for a section title.

Latrobe returns just two senior starters in outfielders Josh Roble and Ray Sowinski. The duo brings a lot of leadership and experience to the table.

Basciano is counting on several other Wildcats who saw limited game action a year ago — seniors Matt Hogue (P/OF), catcher Elie Imbrogno, Alec Spangler (P/OF) and shortstop Anthony Monteparte — to form the nucleus of this year's team.

“We're returning two every day starters and one other player who saw significant playing time,” Basciano said. “We definitely have some talent, but we are very young and inexperienced right now. I believe with hard work and dedication we can be one of the teams competing for the section (title). We're going to rely on a great group of seniors to provide leadership. They've worked extremely hard this offseason and are ready to take over the role.”

One area which plagued the Wildcats a year ago was an inability to score runs in several of its big games. Latrobe was held to two runs or less on seven occasions and also lost four games by just a single run.

As a few coaches have mentioned, the section does appear to be more balanced this year and shouldn't be as top-heavy as it was a year ago. This should help the Wildcats through this transition.

“This should be a tight race for the section championship,” Bosciano said. “I don't think one team, like Norwin last year, will run away with it. The section doesn't have one dominant team this year. Norwin, Hempfield and Penn-Trafford should all be strong with a lot of starters back.”

Latrobe will dress eight juniors on its varsity roster, which should also bode well for the future.

The Wildcats will get to learn a lot about their progress in a season-opening showdown with traditional powerhouse North Allegheny on Friday, followed by hosting nonsection foes Penn Hills and local rival Derry.

“We need to start coming together and gelling as a team,” Bosciano said. “The seniors have started to do this, but the underclassmen have to step up also. Secondly, we will have to play smart, fundamentally solid baseball. It's going to take a lot of hard work and dedication.”

Brian Hunger is a freelance writer.

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