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Veteran St. Francis Prep eyes CHSAA city crown

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But this year, with seven returning starters back - including senior second baseman Peter Loeb - expectations are sky high for the Terriers.With perennial powerhouse Archbishop Molloy High School losing a pair of Division I pitchers in Matt Rizzotti and Brian Duffy, St. Francis Prep believes this is their year to take over the reigns in Queens. "We're not going to be the spoilers anymore," Loeb said. "We're going to be the team to beat."Led by senior Richie Armento, and including Bobby Schnurr, Rob Casal and Greg Fleck, the entire pitching staff is back for St. Francis Prep. Sophomore Paul Karmas will start at first base but is a hard thrower who should close.Also back for the Terriers, which went 2-2 on its preseason trip to Naples, Fla., are senior shortstop Justin Gueli, the outfield of juniors Jason Kaye and Alex Pinto and senior Robert Paccione and Kevin Benway, who started in the outfield last year but will play behind the plate to make up for the loss of Mike Xifaras (Briarcliff College)."I feel it's going to be a strong year," Armento said. "Our defense is good. I think our team's jelling. It gives me confidence when I'm on the mound."St. Francis Prep will get to prove just how good they are when they face Molloy at Stanner Field in the league opener Monday afternoon."The thing is," St. Francis Prep coach Bro. Robert Kent said. "You have to do the talking on the field."Despite losing Rizzotti (Manhattan College) and Duffy (University of Maryland-Baltimore County), Molloy isn't quite ready to yield to St. Francis Prep. Not with a deep and talented pitching staff, featuring David Pelton, Matt Doran, Orlando DeJesus, Rich Ardezzone and junior lefties Andrew Lantos and Sandy Sussman who are up from a junior varsity team that won the city championship a year ago.Also back for the Stanners are first baseman Andrew Kapela, who will also pitch, second baseman Matt Shelly, shortstop Joe Silvestri and outfielders Anthony Carnacchio and Matt Murdoch. Sophomore Kevin Roberts is at third base and Peter Brusca will play right field. "There's not one sure fire winner, but they're all good," Molloy coach Jack Curran said of his pitching staff. "I think we'll be OK."Msgr. McClancy coach Nick Melito says the championship formula in the CHSAA is deep pitching and a bit of luck. And with three senior hurlers returning, the Crusaders are halfway there. Andrew Guarasi and Matt McDevitt - who Melito says are his No. 1 and 1a pitchers - and three-year hurler Bob Gorvetzian are back for McClancy. "This is probably the deepest pitching we've had in a while," Melito said. "We've always had one real ace, but I think we can put two out there against anyone and Gorvetzian isn't that far behind them."Also back for McClancy, which lost to Stepinac in the seeding round of the playoffs last year, are Danny Lopez, who moves from center field to shortstop to make up for the loss of Vinny Johnson, Keith Morrice, who replaces Stephan Kroski (Concordia College) behind the plate and designated hitter/pitcher Steven Morgan, who provides some power in the lineup. Newcomer Christian DeLeon will start at second base."These kids played for a (junior varsity) city championship as sophomores," Melito said. "They've been together for a while. We're quietly optimistic."It's been a long time since Holy Cross High has made some noise on the baseball diamond, but the Knights return a bevy of players from a team that finished one game shy of the playoffs a year ago.Juniors George Carroll (catcher) and shortstop Effrey Valdez have helped to instill a new attitude with higher expectations throughout the program, much like it was when coach Doug Manfredonia played at Holy Cross.While football stars Brendan Daly and Kevin Ogletree opted not to return, seniors Kyle Thomas (center fielder/pitcher) and second baseman Brian Bigler are back as is a deep pitching staff led by a trio of seniors - Dan McNema, Eric Johnson and Mike Enright - and feature juniors Pete Regan, Matt Santeufemia and Christian Farrell.Talented twin infielders Ian and Justin Leisenheimer are also expected to perform well for a Holy Cross team looking to win a playoff game for the first time in over a decade."We can run, hit and field as good as anybody," said Manfredonia, who was a member of the 1982 city championship squad and is in his fourth year at the helm. "And our pitching is potentially better than a couple of teams."Walter Tuthill was worried that Christ the King's disastrous 0-18 record in 2004 would carry over to the fall season. But the Royals were 7-3 in the fall, beating defending city champion Xaverian along the way.Because of their fall performance, Tuthill and the Royals are excited heading into Monday's league opener against McClancy."I feel better than I did last year," said Tuthill, in his fifth year as varsity head coach. "We had a horrible year last year but we're shooting for the playoffs."One reason for Tuthill's new-found confidence is pitcher Bobby Tesseyman, a composed pitcher who stays ahead of batters. Back for Christ the King are senior catcher Luis Vega, senior ace Brian Ferrara and sophomore shortstop Chris Valerio, who Tuthill expects to be a Division I prospect in two years."There's great chemistry on this team, they just talk about baseball," Tuthill said. "It's like they have this refuse to lose attitude, like it was in the fall."Two years ago Cathedral Prep won its first Class B city title and after retooling a year ago, coach Billy Oettinger believes the Crusaders are ready for another championship run.Led by seniors Rob Ehresman (second base), shortstop Rob Moloney and catcher Ray Dawson and juniors Brian Barvels (left field) and Greg Mandese - who Oettinger thinks is one of the best center fielders in the league - Cathedral Prep may be one of the best offensive teams in the 'B' league.A year after being the No. 2 starter as a freshman, Jeff Gonzalez is expected to be the ace of the Cathedral pitching staff, that includes junior Julian Lopez.Cathedral Prep, which will see its league schedule increase from 8 to 19 games because of the inclusion of crossover games with the New York Archdiocese, should get its stiffest competition from Bishop Ford, which is expected to move to the 'A' league next year.All Hallows should be one of the top teams in the other division.St. John's Prep also plays in the CHSAA 'B' league.Reach Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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