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Offseason work helps Vincentian pitchers go distance this season

| Thursday, April 17, 2014, 9:54 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Vincentian Academy's Jay Cortese pitched a complete game in each of his first three starts this season.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Vincentian Academy's Jay Cortese pitches a complete game against OLSH on April 9, 2014 at Youthtowne Field in Clinton. Cortese threw over 100 pitches in the 4-2 victory.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Vincentian Academy pitcher Jay Cortese celebrates his final strikeout in a complete-game victory against OLSH on Wednesday, April 9, 2014, at Youthtowne Field in Clinton. Cortese threw more than 100 pitches in the 4-2 victory.

Vincentian Academy junior Jay Cortese can finish what he starts.

The pitcher's first three outings this season were complete games, which bodes well for the Section 5-leading Royals (8-0, 4-0), who are early WPIAL Class A contenders. Cortese and junior lefthander Ian Taylor credit their improved endurance to an offseason throwing program they both embraced.

“My arm is better than it ever was before,” Cortese said. “There's no way I'd have been able to last seven innings three games in a row.”

A right-hander with a mid-80s fastball, Cortese has thrown more than 100 pitches three times this season. He reached the 100-pitch mark against OLSH and struck out four of the final six batters to win 4-2.

“He was throwing just as hard in the seventh inning as he was in the first,” Vincentian coach Paul Quarantillo said.

Taylor also has reached 100 pitches without much fatigue. A lefty with a good split-finger changeup, Taylor handled all but the final out to beat Northgate, 3-1.

“They both were able to come back five days later without any arm trouble,” Quarantillo said. “Both are off to terrific starts.”

Their arm-conditioning program is the work of first-year pitching coach Mike Mulvey. The North Catholic graduate won NCAA Division III national titles at Marietta College in 2011 and 2012. In three years there, Mulvey was 15-3 with a 2.70 ERA. His arrival at Vincentian has improved the entire pitching staff, said Quarantillo, who coached Mulvey in youth baseball. Vincentian has allowed only six earned runs in 52 innings, a 0.81 ERA. Cortese is 4-0. Taylor is 2-0. The team's third starter, senior outfielder Greg MacQueen, also is 2-0.

“They throw a lot more strikes, and they're walking way fewer batters than they did last year,” said Quarantillo, an infielder for Pitt in the 1970s. “It's really strengthened their arms.”

Mulvey led voluntary winter workouts at 6 a.m. Some days they threw from 45 feet to fix mechanics. Others involved stamina-building bullpen sessions that increased from 20 to 70 pitches.

“They embraced it with open arms,” said Mulvey, who also added a recovery program for days between starts. “A lot of these kids were playing basketball, but they were willing to put the time and work in before school. I can come up with whatever program I want, but if they don't have the work ethic, it's no good. They're hard workers.”

Quarantillo saw an immediate difference when Vincentian opened its season in Vero Beach, Fla.

Unlike last year, the pitchers were able to throw more than two or three innings in mid-March. Cortese handled all seven innings in the Florida opener.

“It's made a huge impact,” said Cortese, who mixes his fastball with an improved curveball and a circle change. “(Mulvey) put in a lot of time and effort with us over the offseason, early in the morning to help us get our arms loose and ready for the season.”

“We got started a lot earlier than we did last year,” said Taylor, who has a slider among his pitches. “We were able to throw before the weather got better.”

Vincentian has only two senior starters: MacQueen and catcher Phil Madonna, a Sienna recruit. The team starts four juniors, two sophomores and freshman shortstop Christian Fedko, a .455 hitter who bats leadoff.

Sophomore first baseman Mark Cyterski leads with a .556 average. Cortese, second at .524, hit for the cycle in a 20-10 win over Springdale and drove in nine runs.

Four times this season the team has scored at least 10 runs. Defense was the team's concern, but that too has improved in tandem with the pitching. With fewer errors, the pitchers are more efficient. With more strikeouts, the fielders do less work.

Cortese had 12 strikeouts in a one-hit victory over Karns City and 14 against OLSH. In all, he has 40 strikeouts in four games.

“If we can catch the ball consistently, we can be very competitive,” Quarantillo said. “When you get pitchers striking out double-digits in a seven-inning game, it's not real stressful for your defense.”

Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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