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CHSAA Baseball: Prepping for repeat?

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But don't count the Terriers out just yet. Not with five starters back from last year's magical team, not in a division that is anyone's to win. A.J. Boardman, who was Prep's No. 2 pitcher behind Forman, is now the ace. Third baseman Sebastian Grazziani, who batted behind Karmas a year ago, returns, as does Lucas Romeo at shortstop and Dennis Nover moves from left field to second base. Nick Copelli will play first, while sophomore Lebro Burnette, Bobby Dougherty, a standout on the football team, and Billy Xouris will see time in the outfield. Joining Boardman on the Terriers staff is senior Jeff Merker, who will likely be the No. 2 starter, Vincent Reda, Patrick Hornell and Burnette round out the staff. "They've been working hard," St. Francis Prep coach Bro. Robert Kent said. "I think we'll be pretty good."A year ago, Archbishop Molloy reached the CHSAA Class A semifinals, only to lose in a pitcher's duel to St. Francis Prep. The star of that team, pitcher Dennis O'Grady, is now at Duke, and battery mate Frank DeMaria is at Marist.There is no ace for the Stanners, at least not yet, with a bevy of contenders right now. Leading the way for Molloy, though, is a pair of Division I players in left fielder Tom Boggiano (Princeton) and pitcher/third baseman Conan Leon (Iona), who is one of about seven pitchers vying for time. It seems like the rest of the team is comprised of players from the championship-winning Molloy hockey team, including shortstop Pat Brown, second baseman Ryan Kearney and leftfielder T.J. Laible, while speedy Robert Hines patrols right field. "Our pitchers have to throw strikes and we have to play defense," longtime coach Jack Curran said. "If that happens, we're going to win some games. The potential is there for us to be pretty good."The household names from '07, including identical twins Justin and Ian Leisenheimer, who are both playing at the University of Maine, are gone. As for the Class of 2008, there is but one familiar name and that is Kevin Kilpatrick. The hard-throwing lefty who will play at St. John's next year is the ace of a Holy Cross team that is fairly young and lost a number of starters from last year. Kilpatrick, who had a big summer for the Bayside Yankees, has three pitches, an above-average fastball, a knuckle curve and a changeup. "He's taken his game up a step from last year," said Holy Cross coach Doug Manfredonia, the last Holy Cross player at St. John's. "He's more focused."Also on the mound for the Knights is senior Mike Wiederhold, senior Frank Caffrey and junior Mike McManus, who will also see time in the infield and the outfield. Mike Socci is at shortstop, while fellow junior Derek LaMacchia will play third, outfield and possibly be the closer. "Last year I could pencil in seven out of nine names in the starting lineup," Manfredonia said. "Now I know of two players who will start. The plus, though, is that we have some versitile players who could fit into a lot of places."Kilpatrick might be the well-known name, but Christ the King could have this year's sleeper in Greg Downing, who is in his third year on the varsity under the direction of former Major League hurler Allen Watson. "I've had him since he was a sophomore and every year he's gotten better," Watson said of Downing, who has drawn interest from Fordham and St. John's.Downing, who has a strong curveball and a fastball that hits 86 mph, is also the Royals' No. 3 hitter. Also back for Christ the King is Byron White, another three-year starter for Watson, who will split time between right field and third base, and shortstop Steve Varela is the No. 2 hitter. "I think we have a very talented team," said Watson, who credits junior varsity coach Pat Sanora. "I think we can do a little bit of damage. We're going to surprise some people."The good news for Monsignor McClancy is that most of the pitching returns from a year ago. But hitting? That's the big question for the Crusaders on the eve of the 2008 season. There are six seniors back, including pitchers James Roubal, Steven Cotov, Joe Herman and Kyle Contino. Handling the senior-laden staff is catcher Greg Morris, who is in his second year on the varsity. McClancy always seems to be blessed with solid shortstops and this year is no different with Blake Barbeito, who coach Nick Melito believes will had a special year. "We're blessed with pitching," Melito said. "But I don't know what our situation is with hitting, especially with wood bats this year."Led by star pitcher Jeffrey Gonzalez, Cathedral Prep captured the CHSAA Class B intersectional title last year, beating St. John's Prep, 8-4, in the title game at St. John's University. Gonzalez graduated and head coach Billy Oettinger left to be an assistant at Christ the King. But new coach John O'Brien, who was the junior varsity coach for the last two years, doesn't expect his team to have a letdown. "We're pretty confident we can do the same thing this year," O'Brien said. "We expect to repeat."A big reason why O'Brien is so confident is the return of junior twins Mike (shortstop) and Matt Knott (catcher). Also back for the Crusaders is junior pitcher/first baseman Cory Bannon, who O'Brien said is the team's top hitter, catcher/third baseman Andrew Viola-Lopez, centerfiel­der/pitcher Sean Debiase, pitcher Steve Trudden and rightfielder Joe Petito.Reach Sports Editor Dylan Butler by email at news@TimesLedger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

Updated 6:57 pm, October 10, 2011
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