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Connellsville baseball team puts focus on winning each moment

| Wednesday, March 12, 2014, 10:57 p.m.
Bill Shirley | Daily Courier
Connellsville's Mike Parlak and his teammates will be focused on the little things, which could lead to greater goals in 2014.

As a new coach in 2013, Rob Orndorff brought a philosophy to the Connellsville baseball team that centered on being as mentally prepared as possible for every pitch and every situation in every game. Orndorff guided the team to an 8-7 record, and not surprisingly, he wants the Falcons to adopt a one-pitch mindset again this season.

“We have talked about long-range goals, and those goals are always to win the section and go deep in the playoffs and ultimately win WPIAL and state championships,” Orndorff said. “But we don't focus on that every day. We focus on one practice, one drill, one rep, one pitch and performing our best in the present moment. If we do those things, that will set us up with the best opportunity to achieve our long-range goals.”

To that end, Orndorff and the team are using “WIN” as an acronym: What's Important Now.

“We want to win the practice, win the pitch, win the game,” Orndorff said.

In order to pick up wins in the record book, the Falcons will have to fill some holes as they prepare for the new season.

Starters Trevor Farrell, Cameron Bernhardt, Grant Wortman, James Stevenson and Grant Witt have graduated. Connellsville also is dealing with the loss of junior Darrell Ross, who suffered a fatal gunshot wound in November.

The Falcons enter this season with five returning lettermen and a lot of question marks. However, one thing that Orndorff already knows is that the players on this year's team are ready to compete for spots on the field.

“It provides a little more competitive spirit because they've been told that nothing is set in stone,” Orndorff said. “So, we'll see who earns these positions.”

Connellsville's biggest need appears to be pitching.

Seniors Jacob Wiltrout, Ty Henry and Mike Durstine have been working with pitching coach Clint Weibl in an effort to solidify the starting rotation. Juniors Dakota McWilliams and Brock Bonadio, as well as some sophomore players, also could see time on the hill.

Third base is possibly the least settled of the infield positions. Senior Ryan Huey, who was a starting pitcher last season, is vying for playing time at third. He is unable to pitch this season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last summer. Sophomore Corey Fogle also is a candidate to play at third. Bonadio is the likely starter at shortstop with junior Luke Kisiel also getting playing time.

Senior Evan Onusko will see action at second base, with Kisiel filling in there as well. Henry and sophomore Austin Puskar appear to be potential fits at first base.

The majority of the catching duties will be handled by senior Mike Parlak, with McWilliams occasionally filling in.

Parlak, like his coach, acknowledged that paying attention to detail will be Connellsville's key to success.

“We definitely want to make the playoffs and win some games there,” Parlak said. “I really think we have the potential. We just have to have the dedication to keep working hard. It's a game of inches, and we want to take everything one pitch at a time.”

Connellsville's outfield is much like the infield in that there are several position battles.

Seniors Caleb Stevenson, J.R. Blocker, Jacob Wiltrout and Mark Kelly are competing for playing time along with a number of underclassmen.

In terms of offense, the Falcons will look for power from players Henry, Wiltrout and Fogle, and they'll rely on speed with contact hitters such as Bonadio, Parlak and Puskar.

The Falcons finished in fifth place in 2-AAAA last season and will try to move up into the top three this year in an effort to reach the playoffs.

“The best team doesn't always win the game,” Orndorff said. “It's the team that plays the best. We want to control what we can control, and that sets us up for the opportunity to pull out victories.”

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