Despite turnover, Monessen baseball expect to keep playoff streak intact
Sunday, March 15, 2020 | 4:54 PM
Youth will be relied upon to supplement the few veteran bats remaining for the Monessen baseball team after losing a nine-player senior cast last season.
With only two seniors and five upperclassmen out of 12 players, 17th-year coach Bill Matush expects to call upon some of his eldest players — Cam Frolo and Dawayne Howell — to spark the Greyhounds’ success.
Frolo led Monessen in batting average (.533) and hits (32) last season, and Howell recorded a spotless ERA in three appearances. Both are pitchers and outfielders.
The Greyhounds have not missed the WPIAL playoffs since the 2015-16, finishing 12-6 overall, 10-2 in Section 2-A last season.
“I’m pretty happy with what we have in the pitching staff as far as it goes with (Frolo, Howell and sophomore Jack Sacco). They are pretty solid pitchers,” Matush said. “I don’t know if three is enough to get us through a whole year, so I’m trying to find a fourth and fifth pitcher.
“I don’t know what to expect now (with the coronavirus-cause postponement of the season), but when we do get back to (practicing), we need to get everybody pitching to make sure we have enough arms to get through the season.”
Matush said if the spring sports season is reinstated, there should be at least a week of practice before the games begin.
“Maybe have a scrimmage or a nonsection game (added to the schedule) so we can get arms built back up to strength,” he said. “Kids might be throwing on their own right now, but they’re not (in game shape). You are really going to have to be cautious with how you expend your pitchers.”
The Greyhounds’ top three run producers — Marcus Tansmore, Vinny Rhome and Tyler Swann — and pitcher Nate Lynch graduated last year, leaving Matush with big holes to fill. Sacco and freshman Dante Defelices are expected to provide key contributions.
Sacco had 12 RBIs last season, fourth-best on the team, on 11 hits (.306 average). He made seven pitching appearances with 1-2 record, a save and an 8.14 ERA.
“I think Frolo will be one of the better players in our section and is a very good baseball player,” Matush said. “He has good speed, is a good defender and hits the ball well. He does everything. This is the first time he is going to get an extended look on the mound.”
A key will be complementing Frolo.
Matush said Defelices performed well in scrimmages, but he needs the freshman to come around at the plate.
Matush also expects a bigger role for junior Sonny Thomas, who drove in eight runs and scored seven times on eight hits last season.
The Greyhounds might be on a playoff-clinching streak, but they have not made it farther than the quarterfinals throughout Matush’s tenure.
Even with a younger team, Matush expects a playoff season.
“Sometimes, if you don’t come prepared to win in the playoffs, it’s really hard to overcome. We got down early in the first inning last year, and it was hard to overcome,” Matush said of a 10-1 first-round loss to St. Joseph. “My mindset is always the same. It’s always a new year. Team turnover happens almost every year.
“It was a really big turnover for us after last season, so this basically is a whole new team. It’s kind of refreshing, and it rejuvenates you to be back working with the younger kids teaching fundamentals and things like that.”
Robert Scott III is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.
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