Depth fuels Quaker Valley baseball team after reaching playoffs last season

Friday, March 20, 2020 | 9:29 PM

No nametags are needed this year for Quaker Valley’s baseball team.

Quakers coach Dean Owrey and his assistants enter their second season leading the program, and they’re pleased with the progress they’ve seen.

“Things are going well. These guys have been working hard through the summer and fall. We’re very, very happy with how things have gone,” he said. “A lot of these guys played in the summer, and my coaches and I ran the fall program. So, we’ve been playing baseball as a program for 15 months or so, and it shows. I think we’re further along this year than we were at the same time last year.”

That doesn’t mean there won’t be some new faces. Quaker Valley graduated five regular starters and two others who played a lot.

“We were hit pretty hard with graduation, but we have a good young group coming up,” Owrey said. “We have about 30 guys, so our numbers are strong again. We have pretty strong classes at all four grades.”

The Quakers return most of their experience up the middle of the field. It starts behind the plate with sophomore catcher Zeke Hendricks.

“We’re expecting big things from him. He is a player,” Owrey said. “He is the next-best Hendricks in this area.”

That’s a reference to West Allegheny’s Austin Hendrick, a Mississippi State recruit.

“Zeke had a good year as a freshman last year, and he will have an even better one this year,” Owrey said.

Senior Shane Hale and junior Ryan Kroner will see time at first base. Sophomore Tommaso Floro is in the mix, as well. Senior Evan Gallagher returns at second, and sophomores Ethan Faris and Andrew Glas could see time. Senior Yeudy Almanzar is back at shortstop. Junior Conner Emery, sophomore Jack Gardinier and Faris add depth to the position. Senior Josh Finamore returns as the starter at third. Connor Bukoskey and Gardinier could fill in, as well.

In the outfield, senior Alex Gramc and junior Tommy Rozman are in left, junior Caleb Piatt, Almanzar and Gardinier could see time in center and sophomore Adam Tanabe and Almanzar could play right. Freshman James Zugai is a catcher but could fill in anywhere in the outfield.

“I like our catcher a lot, and I like out middle fielders at short, second and center,” Owrey said. “If we throw strikes, and people put it in play, we’ll make plays up middle.”

Seniors Nick Merriman, Finamore and Almanzar bring experience to the mound. Junior Connor Emery, Tanabe, Zugai, Glas and Floro could pitch, as well.

“We have about eight or nine guys I feel pretty confident can get the job done,” Owrey said.

With Christian Johnston’s graduation, the Quakers will have a different look on offense. He hit .377 with a team-best four homers and 25 RBIs.

“He could change a game with one swing. It’s hard to tell if we have that dimension this year. We kind of expected it from Johnston last year,” Owrey said. “We’re going to have to put the ball in play and run the bases. I’d rather score eight or nine runs with a bunch of doubles and singles than win 5-1 because of a grand slam. We did that a couple times last year. That definitely helps, but I’d rather have a lot of production this year.”

Quaker Valley finished 6-6 in Section 2-4A and 11-7 overall after a 2-1 loss to South Park in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs. The Quakers believe the section race will be close.

“Our section is tough. Blackhawk is always good. New Castle has a strong pitcher. We split with Central Valley. Beaver loads them up every year, and I like their coaching staff. I’d expect them to be competitive even though they’ll be younger,” Owrey said. “I expect us to be fighting each other like dogs and cats.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.


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