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Pine-Richland baseball returns core

| Wednesday, April 3, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Louis Raggiunti | Pine Creek Journal
Daane Berezo and the Pine-Richland Rams are looking to get back to the playoffs in 2013.
Louis Raggiunti | Pine Creek Journal
Shea Sullivan and the Pine-Richland Rams are ready for battle in Section 3 Class AAAA.

If there was one thing Pine-Richland baseball fans could count on for more than a decade, it was that a stud catcher was behind the plate.

Neil Walker, Ryan Schleiden, Dan Passione and most recently Russell Clark have helped the Rams earn four WPIAL championships, a PIAA crown and a PIAA runner-up. Now, in 2013, Rams coach Kurt Wolfe thinks he has another catcher to help anchor the position for a few more years.

Sophomore Joey Professori will line up at the storied position for the Rams this season.

With that position locked down, Wolfe will jockey the rest of the lineup from game to game depending on who is pitching. The versatility of the team is a strength, and opponents will have to adjust to the Rams' moving part.

Junior J.T. Riley will handle first base, David Laylock will play second and Daane Berezo will take care of the shortstop duties.

Jack Houdak and Jamie Switalski, both of whom can pitch as well as play the field, will handle third base. Wolfe will start both players and said Houdak may also handle the designated hitting duties.

The outfield will be held down by Shea Sullivan in left, Shane Heim in center and Andrew Nussbaum and Nick Roth in right.

Wolfe really likes his outfielders, but with a good pitching staff, they may not always have much to do.

Marcus Colella will head up a rotation that includes starting pitchers Matt McCarthy, a lefty, Berezo, Houdak, and Brendan Burnham.

The bullpen is stout, as well: Morgan Means, James Fonzi, Matt Graf and Laylock are ready to go.

Wolfe's options don't stop there. He has players like Matt Caminicky, a utility infielder and backup catcher; Matt Clark, who can play second and third; Alex Roth, who can play first base; Zac Hunkele; and Nick Chavara, who will miss the season with an injury, but Wolfe asked to remain on the team as a manager to get some experience.

“This group is exciting,” Wolf said. “We have so many kids back who saw a lot of playing time.

“Our right fielder, catcher and first baseman are new, but having six of nine returning starters is a ton for us.”

Wolf said the players have a different attitude this season. They know what needs to be done, and he feels they can do it.

“The boys are excited to get this going,” Wolfe said. “They are ready to show missing the playoffs last season was a fluke and want to get back to where they need to be.”

Jerry Clark is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-779-6979 or jeclark@tribweb.com.

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