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Molloy eyes return to CHSAA baseball championship

Perhaps Monsignor McClancy coach Nick Melito said it best when summing up the CHSAA varsity baseball league: “It’s just a tough league. You can get your brains beat in any day.”

While not considered one of the nation’s top high school baseball leagues, like its basketball counterpart, the one thing you can count on every year when CHSAA teams take to the baseball diamond is parody. On any given day, any team can beat any other.

That’s not to say there aren’t favorites.

The Archbishop Molloy Stanners made their 27th trip to the city championship last year under veteran coach Jack Curran, falling to Iona Prep, 4-3, in the final game. And despite a handful of injuries to key players at the start of the new season, Curran’s club could very well be there at the end again.

“The jury is still out,” Curran confessed. “We’ve had four scrimmage games. We’ve played pretty well. It depends on the pitching, as always. If our pitchers do well, we’ll have a good season.”

Key players returning from last year’s runner-up are pitcher Matt Rizzotti, second baseman Sean Chang, centerfielder Ryan Roberts, catcher and designated hitter Chris Kaible, third baseman Thomas Maser, pitcher Matt Schwab and leftfielder Mike Auletta.

Roberts is out with a broken wrist but should return, while Auletta injured his knee just last week and might have to sit out the entire season. Schwab, a left-handed hurler, has also been nursing a sore pitching shoulder.

“That just means some other guys are going to play,” Curran said. “We’d like to have those guys in there, but they’re hurt so there’s nothing we can do.”

Other players hoping to make a contribution include sophomore shortstop Joe Silvestri, Pat “Soup” Campbell, an infielder who may play the outfield this year, outfielders Matt Murdoch, Greg Lasak and Anthony Carnacchio, pitchers Brian Duffy and David Pelton and Andrew Capela, who can play first, third or pitch.

“We’re in good shape,” Curran said.

The Stanners opened their season Tuesday against another team expected to play well this season, the Monsignor McClancy Crusaders.

Melito, whose team lost to Cardinal Spellman in the second round of the playoffs a season ago, returned a host of talented players to the fold, most notably standout shortstop Vinny Johnson, catcher Steve Kosky and second baseman Steve lgaroba.

The Crusaders may be a little short in the pitching department, bringing back only two from last year’s staff, Brandon Stueber and Bob Gorvetzian, but is bringing up a host of players from a junior varsity team that went all the way to the city championship game in 2003.

“Our league is funny,” Melito said. “Just when you think you’re going to be good, you find out the other teams are just as good. I think we’re alright. The question mark we have is pitching.”

Juniors Andrew Guarrassi and Matt McDevitt should see some time on the hill on a team replete with juniors, including third baseman Sean Hayes and outfielders Randy White, Jeff Tavares and Dan Sanabria. John McGuiness will play first, while Joe Schiano will also see time at the hot corner.

“I think we’re good,” Melito said. “I think every other team is good, too.”

Head coach Walter Tuthill and the Christ the King Royals are bringing back 10 seniors from the first team in Tuthill’s 15 years as head coach that failed to make the playoffs, being bumped out on the season’s final day when St. Edmund upset Molloy.

The seniors on the team include catcher Elvin Millan, first baseman Raphael Lajara, second baseman Russell Vay, shortstop Danny Rubino, third baseman Christian Bermudez and left fielder Andrian Serrano. Roger Cobourne will catch and play first and junior centerfielder David Barrionubbo and junior rightfielder Fabian Melendez round out the line-up.

Senior Joe Mikoleski will do some pitching, as will juniors Mark Calzadilla and Luis Vega, who will also see time in the outfield.

“I like the team,” Tuthill said. “I think we’re real good defensively. We may be a little short on pitching.”

St. Francis Prep lost to Molloy in the semifinals last year but is only bringing back four players who saw significant time last season, catcher/designated hitter Pete Gorynski, third baseman Joe Taddeo, pitcher Tommy Velez and catcher/designated hitter Mike Xifaras.

Sophomore Robert Casal and juniors Richie Armento, Gregory Fleck, Sean O’Boyle and Robert Schnurr complete the staff. A bevy of juniors also round out the lineup, including shortstop Justin Gueli, second baseman Peter Loeb, first baseman Robert Paccione and rightfielder Kevin Benway. Sophomores Jason Kaye and Alex Pinto will play in left and center, respectively.

“We have to win on pitching and defense,” said head coach Bro. Robert Kent, whose team is 4-1 in five scrimmages.

The Holy Cross Knights round off the Queens teams in the CHSAA ‘A’ league. Last year’s last place finisher, the Knights are bringing back only one player who made any impact last year, pitcher/first baseman Anthony Bruno.

Senior Chris Glauner and juniors Eric Johnson, Michael Enright and Kyle Thomas will also pitch on a team that has a new player at almost every position.

Bryan McGovern will play third, John Ciccotelli is at short, Joe Mare will start at second with Bruno at first.

Brendan Daly and Kevin Ogeltree will play in the outfield along with Thomas and Joe Maninolfi. Daly and sophomore George Carroll will play behind the dish.

“I’m hoping half of them click and we keep ourselves in the hunt most of the way,” said head coach Doug Manfredonia. “I know that the league lost a lot of seniors from our competition and I’m hoping we stay in the race.”

Brooklyn’s Xaverian Clippers appear to be one of the league favorites, having already blown out Christ the King, while St. Edmund, another Brooklyn school, should also be in the hunt for a playoff spot.

Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.

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