Jeannette baseball ready for challenge in move up to Class 2A

Wednesday, March 13, 2019 | 5:44 PM

Jeannette’s baseball team has eight returning seniors. The coaching staff has remained largely the same for the last 15 years. And everyone associated with the Jayhawks lives within two miles of each other.

They know each other so well that the players can usually predict when the coaches are going to give a pep talk before the team is called together.

If there is any hint of unpredictability about the Jayhawks, it’s how they will be affected after a move up to Class 2A where they last competed in 2014.

Jeannette finished 2018 with a loss in the WPIAL Class A semifinals and is two years removed from winning a WPIAL championship. Coach Marcus Clarkson said he has the right group for a seamless transition to play up a classification.

“This is a great senior class,” Clarkson said. “We have seven returning starters and more seniors than I’ve had in 15 years. We might have moved up to Double A, but we have players that can compete up there. Our goals are the same. We always want to do well in sections and make a playoff run as far as we can go.”

Second-year captain and first baseman Drake Petrillo echoed his coach’s sentiments and added that the team would like to get another title shot.

“There are two things I live by, at least in sports,” Petrillo said. “First, do your job as best as you can. Second, all you need is a ticket to the dance. We were the seventh seed two years ago … and we won the championship against Greensburg Central Catholic in 12 innings.”

Jeannette’s pitching will be led by Seth Howard, who has an “electric arm,” according to Clarkson. He relies on a fastball and curveball combination to keep batters off balance.

Michael McCabe and Alex Vickers also will be called upon to take the mound.

“Michael can throw well and has played a lot of infield,” Clarkson said. “He’s got good control and spots pitches well. Alex Vickers grew two inches and got a lot stronger in the last year. We’re looking forward to seeing them pitch more this season.”

The Jayhawks will have a formidable top of the lineup with Howard, Petrillo, Zander Malik and Derrick Miller.

They combined for 56 RBIs last season, but the team was inconsistent with runners in scoring position.

“We didn’t put the ball in play as much as I’d like a year ago, and that was kind of our downfall,” Clarkson said. “We’ve got to score more runs with guys on base. Put the ball in play and avoid striking out too much. We’re working on it.”

Jeannette will have more speed on the base paths this season, Petrillo said, but he added base runners have to be smarter, too.

Whoever has an opportunity to step up in clutch situations this season, Petrillo knows they’re capable of capitalizing.

“Probably one of coolest things about Jeannette sports is that I’ve played with almost everyone on this team in baseball, basketball and football,” Petrillo said. “I’m confident in the whole team no matter who it is. It’s a family thing. Our parents are friends, and we’re like brothers. We’ve always done everything together.”


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