Mollis hoping to lead Cougars back to glory
Things have changed dramatically between the time Luke Mollis was a baseball player at Charleroi and today when he embarks on his first season as the Cougars' coach.
In the 1990s, Charleroi was one of the perennial powers in Class AA with Mollis being a cornerstone of the squad for four seasons.
Fast forward to today and the Cougars are coming off a 2-17 season and have a combined record of 18-51 over the last four years.
“I think the biggest difference between then and now is that when I played, most of the guys came up playing together from the time they were small, and when we stepped on the field, we expected to win,” Mollis said. “These kids haven't had the same situation and I don't think they expect to win. They don't have that confidence. I'm going to work to get that back.”
Mollis said in Charleroi's first two non-section games, both losses, he saw a lot of the old traits from his team — too many walks yielded, fielding errors and fundamental mistakes.
“We need to correct that if we are going to be successful,” he said.
The Cougars welcome back five players with starting experience whom Mollis will be leaning on. They are first baseman Mark McFeeley (senior), shortstop Gunnar Riley (junior), third baseman Seth Nangle (senior), catcher Matt Carcella (senior) and left fielder Matt Szersen (sophomore).
“It's still early, so our lineup is far from set and there is some competition,” Mollis said.
Junior David Young is in the mix at first base, while senior Mitch Woytovich and sophomore Josh Sidary are battling at second base. Nangle will play third, but when he is pitching junior Zach Nabozny will take over at third base.
Joining Szersen in the outfield will be senior Chris Axton in center and junior Nathan Householder in right. Two freshmen, Sam Pager and Matt DeMoss, will also see time in the outfield.
“We're pretty young, so we will make mistakes,” Mollis said. “But we have to learn from them.”
On the mound, Mollis will hand the ball to Nangle, Nabozny, Sidary, Carcella and Szersen.
“We don't have an ace on the mound, but we have some depth. We still have to learn put the ball in the strike zone,” Mollis said. “We either need to make hitters put the ball in play or get ahead of them early in the count. In our two games so far we walked way too many people.”
Charleroi will compete in a revamped Section 2 AA, along with Bentworth, Brownsville, Beth-Center, Burgettstown, Chartiers-Houston, Fort Cherry and Washington.
Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.