Memory of playoff loss motivates Gateway baseball

Saturday, March 14, 2020 | 6:01 AM

Gateway’s baseball team is not letting the taste of bitter defeat leave its memory.

After a 13-6 regular season, the Gators made a quick first-round decampment for the fourth consecutive season in the WPIAL playoffs after falling victim to eventual Class 5A champion Shaler Area, 2-1, last May at Fox Chapel.

“We have a lot of guys returning that were in that position together last year and the (players) thought we just needed to execute,” coach Mark Wardzinski said. “We are working to improve with the things we struggled with last year (such as) getting on base, pitch selection, bunting. Just the little things.”

Wardzinski is entering his seventh year managing the Gators. Split into two tenures, he is set to begin the second season of his second stint with nine seniors returning to the squad including Anthony Cammuso, Jaired Lehman and Jordan Stancovich.

Cammuso is a shortstop and Lehman a second baseman. Both are starting pitchers. Stanovich is a catcher who is supplying relief innings on the mound for the first time this season.

Cammuso compiled a team-best 2.45 ERA with 35 strikeouts and 19 walks in 40 innings pitched, the most on the team. His eight appearances were also the most on the eight-arm staff, which included five pitchers with at least five appearances. Lehman’s 2423 innings pitched were second-most, striking out 23 batters and walking 17 in the process.

The Gators did lose, however, two throwers with at least 15 innings pitched to graduation in Dan Leitholf and Ethan Frenchik.

“They’ve been working hard (in practice), throwing the ball well,” Wardzinski said of his pitching staff, which now includes sophomores Grady Otterman and Ryan Greggerson.

“We plan on using Greggerson and Otterman. They will both get pitching time this year. Joe Schulte pitched a little last year but is probably going to have to step up.”

Greggerson also plays first base, and Otterman is a utility infielder. Senior Ethan Birckbichler also is set to start on the mound, according to Wardzinski.

Birckbichler totaled a 5.68 ERA in 1213 innings with 12 strikeouts and 11 walks.

Stanovich (.373) and Cammuso (.369) led the team in batting average among players who appeared in multiple games last season. Cammuso drove in 20 runs on 24 hits. Stanovich recorded five doubles and seven RBIs on 22 hits.

Lehman was not far behind with a .321 average, three doubles, 10 RBIs and 18 hits.

“Our senior class is very dedicated,” Wardzinski said. “They all show up every day and work out on their own so that (last year’s result) doesn’t happen again.”

Outfielders Jared Busche and Santino Comunale along with second baseman Josh Bobbin and third baseman Dalton Vojnik are also seniors and plan to make a difference for the team.

Vojnik was the only one to play more than seven games with two RBIs, 11 hits and six runs in 49 plate appearances (.268).

Center fielder Luke Jackson also is returning to start after going 10 for 33 with five RBIs in 14 games his sophomore season.

Wardzinski is expecting to see more out of Vojnik, Comunale and first baseman Donovan Baxter, who played in six games as a sophomore last season.

“I just want them to be competitive in every game, giving us a chance to win every time we go out,” he said.

Robert Scott III is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.


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