Jeannette baseball will lean on pair of veteran players

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Thursday, March 25, 2021 | 7:46 PM


Jeannette baseball has been a perennial playoff contender in recent years under the guidance coach Marcus Clarkson.

The Jayhawks advanced to the postseason five consecutive years, from 2015 to ’19, and reeled in the ’17 WPIAL Class A title with a 7-3 victory against section rival Greensburg Central Catholic at Wild Things Park.

The last time the Jayhawks stepped onto a diamond for a regular-season or playoff game, they dropped a 1-0 decision to Carmichaels in the first round of the 2019 WPIAL Class 2A playoffs at Seton Hill to finish 9-8 overall.

“The last season played in 2019, we graduated nine players,” Clarkson said, “so with the lost season only two (current) players have had significant playing time at the high school level, which means a lot of teachable moments early, especially breaking some bad habits with just throwing the baseball.

“We figure to have some growing pains with a young team, but I expect them to play hard and learn from those pains.”

Jeannette is in Section 3-2A this year along with Apollo-Ridge, Northgate, Serra Catholic, Shady Side Academy and Sto-Rox and slightly different than 2019, when the section consisted of Apollo-Ridge, Brentwood, Jeannette, Riverview, Serra Catholic and Seton LaSalle.

There are 16 players on the Jayhawks roster this season with only two seniors and two juniors.

Two of the team’s linchpins are expected to be Emilio Huerta, a senior center fielder, and Tyler Horn, a junior catcher. Both also are hurlers for the Jayhawks.

Huerta was a member of Jeannette’s WPIAL Class A championship football squad in the fall. He was a tackle, center and defensive end and was named first-team all-conference on offense (tackle) and defense (end).

“Emilio was the starting right fielder on our 2019 playoff team and played really well as a sophomore,” Clarkson said. “He will be asked to move to center field and will also pitch for us. He had a great football season and played a huge role for the WPIAL champions, so I will make him a captain and expect him to be a leader.

“Tyler also played a part on that 2019 team as a backup catcher and has improved his skills over the offseason. I’m expecting him to break out this season. He will also be asked to pitch and be a captain.”

The 5-foot-8, 215-pound Huerta is encouraged by what he’s seen of the Jayhawks’ youth movement in team practices.

“All I expect this year is to build the team and help the younger kids get better for future seasons,” he said. “We have a lot of young kids this year.”

While anchoring the outfield, Huerta’s versatility and knowledge of the game are among his strengths. He says he will play wherever needed.

“I have played other positions,” he said. “I can play anywhere the team needs me. I know all the positions.

“I’ve played baseball for as long as I can remember.”

Huerta plans to continue his football career at St. Francis (Pa.).

Horn may see spot duty in the infield this spring and, like Huerta, is an advocate of Jeannette’s youth movement.

“With us being a very young team,” Horn said, “I’m looking for us to get these young guys in the games to get them used to the speed of high school baseball. This year will be a good one to get us developed for the future.”

Horn (5-11, 150), a wide receiver/defensive back on the football team, has been a lifelong fan and participant in of the game of baseball.

“I have been playing baseball ever since I can remember,” Horn said. “I’ve played ever since I could swing a bat.”

There are 10 freshmen on the squad looking for playing time for the Jayhawks, including top prospects Michael Mason and Brayden Luttner. Both are infielders/pitchers. Mason can play shortstop or center field, and Luttner can tackle either infield position on the left side of the diamond.

“Michael and Brayden look to be key players on this team,” said Clarkson, who is in his 18th season as the Jayhawks’ field boss. He began coaching at Jeannette in 2003.

Other freshman candidates include Gavin Holemeyer (C/1B/3B/OF), Nick Rattigan (1B/OF), Isaiah Mallich (2B/SS), infielders Hunter Blazowich and Nate Homan and outfielders Nathaniel Gantt, Nick Delo and Dean Farraj.

Rounding out the squad are senior outfielders Sean Critchlow and Daniel Jordan and sophomores Davonte Tillman (IF) and Andrew Ross (OF).

Joining Huerta and Horn on the football team were Critchlow, Mason and Holemeyer.

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