Share This Page

Cal faces rebuilding

| Friday, March 29, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Califorina - File photo Don Hartman,Califorina head baseball coach.

There is good news and bad news for California Area baseball fans this season.

The bad news is five starters are gone from last season's 19-2 team that reached the WPIAL Class A championship game before bowing to Neshannock.

Four of those starters, T.D. Conway, Matt Luketich, Pat Tunney and Sean Cotton, were big reasons why the Trojans went 56-11 the last three seasons and reached at least the WPIAL semifinals and the PIAA playoffs all three years.

“I'd say we are more in a rebuilding mode,” said veteran California coach Don Hartman. “We lost an awful lot of talent and experience from last year's team. We lost our top pitcher, our leadership and pretty much all of our power with that group.”

The good news is that the Trojans welcome back a nucleus that includes four returning starters (shortstop Josh Luko, third baseman Ron Barron, catcher Jake Columbus and left fielder Mike Luketich) and another player (center fielder Aaron Previsky) who spot started last season.

“I have some guys who have played at a high level, know the tradition and what it takes here,” said Hartman. “I also have seven kids who can pitch, which is a plus. Not all of them have experience, but they are arms.

“I'm just hoping that my juniors step up and account for the power that we lost.”

Luketich, a junior, hit .417 last season while Columbus, a sophomore, hit .404. Barron hit .357 and Luko hit .333.

Luko, as the No. 2 pitcher behind Conway, was 6-0 on the mound in 2012.

New to the lineup for California will be sophomore Chris Swartz at first base, junior Mitch Niccolai or freshman Louden Conte at second and either Conte or junior Joey DeFranco in right field.

Previsky will settle into the center field slot and Conte, the son of California University baseball coach Mike Conte, will also see time at short and third, depending on who is pitching for the Trojans.

Luko and Barron will head a deep pitching staff that Hartman said will also include Conte, senior Brian Fisher and Previsky.

California, which is 2-1 after a tough 4-3 exhibition loss to Serra and lopsided wins over Charleroi and Monessen, will be tested early as the Trojans visit WPIAL champ Neshannock Saturday for another non-section game.

California will compete in Section 1 A with Jefferson-Morgan, Carmichaels, Avella, Mapletown and West Greene.

Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or joliver@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.