Apollo-Ridge baseball wants program’s 1st section title in more than 2 decades

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Friday, March 11, 2022 | 7:18 PM


Apollo-Ridge qualified for the WPIAL baseball playoffs last year for the first time since 2014.

A-R landed the 14th seed in Class 2A and faced No. 3 Carmichaels, which defeated the Vikings, 12-1.

“It is very early, but we have a great turnout so far as 23 players showed up through open gym and the start of the season practices,” fourth-year coach Jason Mamros said. “We are young though. We lost six seniors from last year, all of which started a lot of games over the last few seasons. It is always interesting to see how well the talent performs when we get outside onto the field for practices and games.”

The Vikings would take a repeat of last year when they jumped out to a 4-0 start.

“We always go into the season thinking section champions as our big goal although it has been 25-plus years since A-R has won the section,” Mamros said. “Our smaller goals that we strive for are playing more fundamental baseball as the season goes along, and, at a minimum, making the playoffs.”

“The short-term day-to-day goal we talk about is getting more consistent with each practice. At the end of every practice, we do a competitive drill where we simulate a part of the game and measure how well we perform. This may be cliche, but we also talk about having fun and learning some positive life lessons along the way.”

There are five returning starters from last year’s 7-7 squad, which took third place in Section 3-2A behind PIAA semifinalist Serra Catholic and Shady Side Academy.

A-R will be led this season by seniors Bradey Schrock (IF), Nathan Kavulic (OF), Connor Mamros (OF), junior Brandon Butler (SS) and sophomore Karter Schrock (OF).

“I have coached this senior class group through the minor, little and junior leagues,” coach Mamros said. “It has been such a joy to see them grow as young men, as well as baseball players, over the last 10 years.”

Bradey Schrock, who has been playing baseball since he was 4 years old, Kavulic and Butler will see time on the mound.

This season is Schrock’s fourth on the varsity and third as a starter (the 2020 season was wiped out because of covid protocols).

“I believe that we should be in every game we play this year,” Schrock said. “We had some seniors graduate last year so we do have a lot of experience to gain back. With that being said, we have a lot of baseball knowledge. Our team has been playing together for many years. But, as always, there is still work to do, and we are going to keep grinding to get to where we want to be.”

Schrock said the Vikings want to remain in the playoff hunt throughout their section season.

“We mainly would like to be section winners this year,” he said. “We have a very good section with Serra Catholic and Shady Side Academy, so if we would win section that would really put Apollo-Ridge baseball on the map.”

Others looking to make an impact for A-R this spring includes seniors Ben Smoyer, Garrett Calderone, Zack Clawson, Colb Pozutto and Sam Ryan; along with juniors Colin Saxion, David Bankosh, Cooper Gourley, Alex Sears, Nate Simpson, Jake Mull and Maddox Myers.

“I am excited to see how all the new faces will step into starting roles,” coach Mamros said. “In particular, David Bankosh (catcher), Jake Mull (utility) and Nate Simpson (Infielder) will see a lot of significant playing time early in the season with a chance to replace the production we lost to the graduating class.”

A-R’s veteran field boss continued his discussion in more general terms.

“My philosophy is work on the fundamentals, play smart and be prepared for anything on every pitch,” he said. “When all the fundamentals come together, you have a chance in every game. When you struggle, let the bad thoughts go and focus on the next pitch.

“The mental game of baseball is underappreciated, if you have negative thoughts, the baseball will find you, so be prepare yourself to be ready to perform at your highest level.

Along with Karter Schrock, top younger prospects in the program include sophomores Logan Bianco and Jacob Fairbanks, and freshmen Tony Gerardi, Jonathan Flickinger and James Stump.

“We have been doing a lot of work in the main areas where we were inconsistent over the last couple of seasons,” said Mamros, who is assisted by Jason Sowers and Kevin Schrock. “We have cost ourselves a lot of outs and games by not being able to make the simple routine plays. It is tough to work on the throwing when we only have indoor practices in the gym, but this year we have worked more on the fundamentals of fielding and throwing. I expect once we’re able to get outside, that this will translate into more consistency.

“We need to develop our pitching staff to gain depth, as last year our seniors logged the majority of innings. If the younger players can throw strikes and the defense behind them does their job, we will be a very competitive team this season. We have had a top-heavy batting order in years past, so we are working on getting more production out of the entire lineup.”

After producing a 5-1 record in the first half of last season, the Vikings were 2-5 in the second half.

A-R’s biggest win of the season undoubtedly occurred April 19 when the Vikings ended Serra Catholic’s 34-game home winning streak with a 5-4 victory at Boston Field.

Brady Schrock’s two-run homer was the key hit for the Vikes, who dealt the Eagles their first loss. And it was the first home defeat for the Eagles since April 16, 2016, when the Eagles fell to Greensburg Central Catholic, 8-4.

“We are in a tough section with Serra Catholic and Shady Side Academy always having lots of talent,” coach Mamros said. “Add in Northgate and Jeannette bringing a lot of talent back, and we will have to execute each and every game to reach our goal of the playoffs.”

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