Behind solid pitching staff, Apollo-Ridge looks forward to new section format

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Friday, March 19, 2021 | 5:24 PM


A year ago, Apollo-Ridge baseball had designs on improving its one-win season from 2019 and moving up in the section standings.

Instead, the pandemic hit and the Vikings, along with other WPIAL teams, suffered a lost season.

“I was tough because, the year before, we didn’t have any seniors and brought everybody back,” third-year coach Jason Mamros said. “For us, it was really painful not getting any experience for this group. We had to deal with it like everybody else.”

For senior Jake Fello, the scholastic baseball world stopped after a scrimmage with Springdale.

“When our season was called, it was very unfortunate because we were looking better than we had our sophomore year,” Fello said. “It was very strange for me not to be playing baseball, but that’s what we dealt with.”

Senior Zach Hreha did play baseball over the summer with the Young Township American Legion program while Fello did what he could to get ready to quarterback an outstanding Apollo-Ridge football team.

“After we had the down time in the spring with the (high school) canceled, going into the summer, I played Legion ball,” Hreha said. “We actually got a full season in.”

But the optimism that existed a year ago hasn’t diminished as the Vikings are anxious to begin the school’s 51st baseball season.

Developing good pitching is the simplest way to contend for one of the four available playoff slots from Section 3-2A, and Apollo-Ridge feels it has some solid arms.

Said Mamros: “We’re counting on Zach (Hreha) and (Jake) Fello, they’re definitely going to be mainstays, along with senior Anthony Blackgrove who’s been around for three years. Brice Laurenti is a tremendous catcher and a team leader. Those kids will be relied on heavily.”

A new feature on the schedule this season is back-to-back games against section rivals. The Vikings, for instance, will open the section campaign at Sto-Rox on April 6, then return home the following day with what amounts to a rematch.

“I’m excited to see that,” Mamros said. “Before, teams were able to load up their No. 1s against better teams, depending how the weather played out. It gave certain teams an advantage. From our standpoint, we have three pitchers that could go one, two or three in any order. So I’m comfortable with that.”

Fello, Hreha and Brady Schrock will garner the most innings this season. Mamros indicated as many as six or seven pitchers could see action.

Brandon Butler will be starting either in center field or at shortstop; Karter Schrock, a freshman, will be in the outfield in left or center; Nathan Kavulic is set at first base while Ben Smoyer will be the designated hitter.

Other positions are up for grabs in the early part of the preseason.

The Vikings have 23 out for the team, which means there will be enough to field a junior varsity squad.

Jason Sowers will be an assistant coach and Kevin Schrock will be a volunteer coach.

While Serra Catholic remains the prohibitive favorite in the section, Mamros will have to familiarize himself with newcomers such as Northgate, Shady Side Academy and Sto-Rox.

Jeannette will also be a section rival.

The exhibition schedule has been beefed up with the likes of Steel Valley, Highlands and Freeport.

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