Derry baseball team wants to build on ‘special year’

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Friday, March 11, 2022 | 8:41 PM


After a baseball season in which they notched their first WPIAL section title since 1992 and won their first playoff game since 2005, the Derry Trojans are looking for more.

They’ll have to do it with a retooled roster.

“We had a pretty special year in 2021,” coach John Flickinger said. “We don’t need to rebuild. We’re kind of reloading.”

While the Trojans are less experienced — they lost 10 seniors, including five starters from a team that was 12-5 (8-2 in Section 3-3A) — they do return a group with some important playing time.

Among the key losses were a pair of middle infielders: Josh Ulery (Division II Pitt-Johnstown) and Ryan Bushey (Division III Mt. Aloysius), who’ve moved on to the NCAA level.

Senior Lucas Ray and sophomores Brady Angus and Roman Fridley last season were the main backups with a chance to fill the vacancies this year at shortstop and second base.

“Pitching,” Flickinger said, though, “is our biggest concern. Our pitching staff is extremely young, but we have some people who can bring it. We’ll use some sophomores.”

Senior Ryan Hood, a Gannon recruit, is expected to be the leader on the mound, according to Flickinger. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound right-hander has battled arm problems throughout high school and worked just 15 innings last season.

He underwent surgery in 2019 to repair a torn labrum and has been slow to return. A lost covid-19 season in 2020 stalled the process, but Flickinger said Hood has appeared ready to go for the Trojans’ scheduled opener March 25 at Class A Leechburg.

“He’s working his way back, and we’re counting on him to really propel us,” Flickinger said. “We need a lot of arms.”

Sophomore Nate Papuga could join Hood as a formidable 1-2 punch for Derry.

“Nate is a big, strong kid with a lot of grit,” Flickinger said. “We’re hoping for big things out of him. He and Ryan are going to have to lead the staff.”

Senior twins Jonathan and William Hugus, along with Fridley, seniors Jake Watson and Blake Cecchini and junior Ashton Beighley round out the pitching corps.

“If these guys can throw strikes, give us an inning here and there, we’ll rely on our defense to take care of the rest,” Flickinger said. “If that happens, we should be OK in the field.”

A pair of seniors — outfielder Nick Thomas, a three-year starter, and catcher Brayden Mickinac — return to supply experience and leadership, qualities Flickinger insisted are sorely needed.

Add to the mix junior outfield Antonio Hauser, who missed Derry’s two playoff games last season — a 10-0 victory over New Brighton and a 2-0 loss to McGuffey — and senior designated hitter Noah Cymmerman, who also has experience behind the plate.

Watson, when he’s not pitching, will fill a utilityman’s role.

“Jake Watson can play anywhere, a valuable guy to have on the team,” Flickinger said.

The Trojans spent the offseason training with assistant coach Brian Thomas.

“I give Brian a lot of credit for getting them in the weight room,” Flickinger said. “It’s made a noticeable difference.”

Following Derry’s season-ending, 2-0 loss to McGuffey in May 2021 in the Class 3A quarterfinals, Flickinger already was looking ahead to this year, hoping the Trojans would be capable of recapturing the chemistry from a team that “played for each other and not for themselves.”

Said Flickinger: “I told them, ‘I’m now putting the section plaque in the trophy case. That season is over. But, you can do it again.’ ”

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