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Baldwin baseball anticipating strong showing in Class AAAA

| Wednesday, March 26, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Baldwin's varsity baseball team is aiming to make some loud noise in the WPIAL Class AAAA ranks this season.

The Highlanders, who are guided by head coach Dan Caponi and assistants Steve Hubsch, Shane Petrelli and Nick Caponi, lost just three seniors to graduation from last year's 5-12 club.

“We have high expectations for this season,” Hubsch said. “Led by our nine seniors, we plan on competing for the section title, along with making a run in the playoffs.

“Several underclassmen will also play a significant role as we progress throughout the year. Everyone has bought into what we are preaching as a coaching staff, and it's creating an atmosphere conducive to winning.”

Baldwin was led offensively last season by senior Alex Pantuso (.425 average, 3 home runs, 5 doubles, 14 RBIs), junior Jordan Gitzen (.409, 2 home runs, 3 doubles, 12 RBIs) and sophomore Chris Eisel (.333, 18 runs, 11 stolen bases).

On the mound, Pantuso, with a 1-2 record, 4.25 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 28 innings, and senior Nick Bernick, with a 3-3 record, and 2.77 ERA in 35 innings, were the team's top two starters last year.

“Our pitching staff looks to be a strength this season,” Hubsch said.

“Seniors Alex Pantuso, Nick Bernick and Zach Murray will pitch the majority of innings, and each have looked impressive during offseason bullpen sessions and in our two scrimmages.”

Eisel and seniors Brendan Antenucci and Pat Aul round out the mound corps.

“We are confident going with Eisel, Antenucci and Aul out of the bullpen,” Hubsch said.

Another team strength should be its defensive play, which should only enhance the team's pitching prowess.

“We plan on being very strong defensively,” Hubsch said. “Several of our guys play multiple positions. This gives us the versatility to make changes, and get our best nine or 10 hitters in the lineup without losing much defensively..”

Seniors Tom McCarthy, Christian Hirt, Bernick and Aul, as well as juniors Dylan Finocchi and Morgan Schmitt, can play multiple infield positions.

“Last season, we struggled with situational hitting, and hitting consistently,” Hubsch said. “We plan to be much improved in these two aspects this season. Our guys have been working tremendously hard throughout the fall and winter.”

Baldwin, which finished in fourth place behind Central Catholic, Franklin Regional and Plum in Section 3-AAAA in 2013, should have an experienced player at every position in the lineup.

“Essentially, we are returning every starter from last season. As of right now, we don't have a starting lineup set in stone,” Hubsch said. “The 15 players on our roster are all capable of contributing, and we are trying to fit the best lineup together in order to win ballgames.

“We are confident that whoever is in there will produce at a high level. We have a talented bunch of guys who are focused and determined to reach our goals.”

Murray is a returning starter at the catcher position, and will do the bulk of the catching when not on the mound.

Tony Martinez, a senior, and Jon Cichon, a junior, also will see action behind the plate.

“Martinez has a strong bat,” Hubsch said. “He has the capability to be our designated hitter.”

The team's infield will be versatile.

Pantuso, Schmitt and junior Tyler Holland are first basemen, while McCarthy, Bernick, Schmitt and Finocchi are second basemen. Bernick, Hirt and Schmitt can play shortstop; Finocchi and McCarthy can play third base.

In the outfield, Hirt, senior Austin Ferris, Bernick, Aul, Antenucci, Gitzen and Eisel will share playing time.

Ray Fisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5820 or

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