Published in The Chagrin Valley Times
April 5, 2018
The Kenston baseball team returned from its spring break trip to Cocoa Beach, Florida, with a 3-4 mark last week, as the Bomber sluggers are primed to build upon a 21-7 season from a year ago with eight returning starters.
Headlined by senior catcher Matthew Cassaro and senior center fielder Matthew Pecoraro, the Kenston boys also have six returning batters who hit north of .300 during the 2017 campaign, which included a 10-4 mark in the Western Reserve Conference.
Cassaro hit .422 with 12 doubles, one triple, one home run and 33 RBIs in 90 at-bats, and he threw out eight of 19 would-be stealers, or 42.1 percent, to earn all-WRC and second-team all-Northeast District selections.
Pecoraro hit .372 with 22 RBIs and 14 steals in 78 at-bats to earn all-WRC and honorable mention all-Northeast District honors. Pecoraro also had a 3.82 ERA in 11 innings pitched with 13 strikeouts.
With the most experience since his 2011 ballclub that finished 20-5, Kenston ninth-year head coach Bob Ford’s 2018 dugout includes 14 returning lettermen, half of whom lettered multiple years, and 11 seniors.
While defense is still a question mark this spring, the Bombers have eight returning players who regularly started in the field, also including junior first baseman Jason Vasil, senior second baseman Patrick Persichetti, sophomore third baseman Jon Tomcufcik, senior shortstop Stephen Szczesniak, sophomore left fielder Tyler Mintz and senior right fielder Mike Rockefeller.
At the plate, shortstop Szczesniak hit .316 with 15 RBIs and five steals in 57 at-bats last season; outfielder Rockefeller hit .315 with 13 RBIs and 21 steals in 73 at-bats; infielder Tomcufcik hit .303 with 14 RBIs and four steals in 76 at-bats; and infielder Persichetti hit .302 with 16 RBIs and four steals in 63 at-bats.
The Bombers only graduated one full-time starter, but it was four-year letterman Christian Cassaro, who is now an outfielder at John Carroll University. Kenston also graduated Ted Wharton, who was 5-1 on the mound last season.
Nonetheless, pitching depth should be a strength for the Bombers this season, starting with senior Ryan Kammer, who was 5-0 with a 1.27 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 22 innings pitched last season.
Kammer was the Bombers’ No. 2 starter on spring break and earned his first victory on the mound during a 6-5 win against Beaver Area, of Pennsylvania, on March 25. Kammer put in four innings of work, giving up just one hit and no runs, while walking one and striking out seven.
Offensively, Pecoraro led the Bombers with three hits in four at-bats, Vasil had two hits, and sophomore Chase King had two RBIs. Defensively, outfielder Mintz laid out from a full sprint to make a game-saving and game-ending catch in the bottom of the seventh, after Beaver already plated three runs and had a man on third.
Kammer made his second start and pitched a complete-game gem, yielding just six hits, two walks and one run while striking out six batters in six innings, but the Bombers lost a 1-0 battle against Conrad Academy, of Florida, on March 29. Kenston’s offense finished with four hits. Defensively, the Bombers had four errors that game, but it didn’t cost them any runs.
In Kenston’s other two victories on spring break, Persichetti tossed three innings with just one hit, two walks and two strikeouts during a 4-0 win against Ridgewood, of New Jersey, on March 25; and Vasil threw 2 2/3 innings with no hits and no earned runs during a 21-1 win against Cloverleaf, of Ohio, on March 26.
In the win against Ridgewood, Cassaro batted three for three with a double, three RBIs and a run scored, while in the mercy-rule triumph against Cloverleaf, junior Craig Roch led the way with four hits in five at-bats with a triple, four RBIs and two runs scored.
Although he is a starting infielder, Persichetti was one of the Bombers’ workhorses on the mound last season, finishing with a 2.82 ERA in 35 innings. He threw first-pitch strikes 79 percent of the time.
Meanwhile, Szczesniak had a 1.27 ERA with three saves in 11 innings of work as the Bombers’ closer last season. Thanks to Mintz’s game-saving, diving catch against Beaver, Szczesniak picked up two saves during the Bombers’ spring break last week.
Vasil and sophomore JD Miller also return with mound experience from a year ago, while coach Ford will give the nod to Mintz, Rockefeller, sophomore Ty Yurkovich, junior Blaise Gorski and senior Alex Eiben in 2018.
Gorski will also play some first base this season, while Eiben, Roch and Yurkovich will get time in the outfield and seniors Ben Obringer and Michael Koniar will see action in the infield.
Weather permitting, Kenston will open up WRC action on the road against Willoughby South at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, before a road doubleheader against former league foe Aurora at 11 a.m. Saturday.
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