Derry baseball team expects progress after challenging seasons

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Friday, March 6, 2020 | 9:11 PM


Batting .350 and receiving all-section honors would be nice, but a section championship is at the top of Austin Siko’s wish list.

Siko, the only senior on Derry’s baseball team, said he believes the Trojans are ready to contend after two losing seasons.

“I 100 percent feel we can do a lot better, because we’re returning eight starters,” Siko said. “Being a sophomore-heavy team last year and everyone returning as juniors, I definitely feel we can win a section championship and make a deep run in the playoffs.”

Coach John Flickinger, in his 20th year with the program, echoed Siko’s sentiment the Trojans could be on the rise.

“We have a chance to be pretty good, and we have a nice, young squad with a lot of experience from the last couple years,” Flickinger said. “The majority of the roster is sophomores and juniors, and I’ll put it this way: I’m cautiously optimistic. You can put lot of good things on paper, but you still have to go out on the field and get it done.”

Flickinger’s message to the Trojans in spring training has been they have to evolve in their pitch-to-pitch approach to meet higher expectations.

“I look at the mental side of things, and my theme for this year is you need to have a plan no matter what you do whether you step into the batter’s box, get on the mound or you’re in the field for every scenario,” Flickinger said. “The talent is there now and for a couple years to be successful, and we have to seize it.”

Juniors Josh Ulery and Paul Koontz will be Derry’s top two pitchers, though the latter is recovering from an injury. Juniors Nick DeTore, Matt McDowell and Tyler Cymmerman also will contribute on the mound.

Koontz throws into the mid-80s and was in the top 10 in WPIAL last season with 48 strikeouts, and Ulery allowed one walk for every 17.6 batters he faced.

“I’m going to count on Josh and Paul as our No. 1 and 2,” Flickinger said. “I know our 8-11 record last season doesn’t speak to the way they pitched. Those two know how to pitch and have a grittiness about them, a bulldog mentality. They can overcome adversity without showing any body language and can bounce back.”

The team’s weak spot last season was a .235 batting average in the section.

Flickinger will look to Siko, is in his third year as a starter, to step up as a leader early in the season.

“It’s a big responsibility to lead by example and do everything the right way, because everyone is watching you,” Siko said.

Flickinger also hopes Ulery, junior Ryan Bushey and sophomores Ryan Hood and Brayden Mickinac will develop more consistency batting.

“Matt McDowell is a defensive guru, and he catches everything you ask for in the outfield,” Flickinger said. “He makes tremendous plays. He just needs to improve at the plate to be an all-around player.”

There will be more parity in Section 1-4A than in recent years, according to Flickinger. He expects many games to “go down to the wire.”

“There are a lot of well-coached teams capable of beating anybody top to bottom,” Flickinger said. “Based upon who is coming back in our section, it’s going to be survival of the fittest.”

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