Latrobe looking to rebound with young squad

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Friday, March 13, 2020 | 7:43 PM


It’s been three years since the Latrobe Wildcats were baseball champions in the WPIAL and PIAA in 2017.

The past two seasons haven’t gone as well, but Latrobe coach Matt Basciano said he expects the team should be in the thick of the Section 2-6A race.

He expects Penn-Trafford and Norwin to be the favorites and his team, Hempfield, Connellsville and Plum to be contenders.

“I believe our section is underrated,” Basciano said. “It’s strong every season, and this year is no different.”

The Wildcats went 8-12 overall and 2-8 in the section last season. They went 11-10 and 7-7 in 2018.

“The record wasn’t good, but we were in the hunt for the playoffs until the end,” Basciano said. “We lost a couple close games.”

Latrobe graduated seven starters, including all-section center fielder Connor Mondock, who hit .492. Mondock is attending Pitt. Other key losses were Noah Belak, Isaac Echard, Matt Henderson (Westmoreland County Community College), Justin Hickman, Ben Shaw and Justin Stott.

“We have big holes and huge shoes to fill,” Basciano said. “I don’t know if we can replace Connor. The outfield spots are wide open.

“We need the seniors to step up. I’ve liked what I’ve seen so far at practice.”

The returning starters are senior first baseman Ben Rafferty, senior shortstop Donnie Shimko and senior catcher Eric Soccio. Other lettermen are senior pitcher Jake Bradish, senior pitcher Cam Dominick, senior pitcher Logan Gustafson and junior pitcher Tucker Knupp.

“We have some experience coming back and some young guys that are pushing to fill some of those roles left from graduation,” Basciano said. “We are very excited to get started. This group has been really working, pushing each other.”

Junior outfielder Drew Clair, senior pitcher Ethan Grandgeorge, sophomore catcher Logan Short and sophomore infielder Vinny Amatucci are some of the promising newcomers.

“There is a lot of talent and potential on the team,” Basciano said. “We cannot get complacent and rest on potential. We must take that hard-working attitude from the offseason and keep it going.

“The key will be the (underclassmen). The sooner they can get acclimated to varsity ball, the better we will be.”

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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