Penn Hills baseball works toward ultimate goal of return to playoffs

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Saturday, March 27, 2021 | 10:01 AM


The Penn Hills baseball coaches promote a family atmosphere in their program.

“We have really been focusing on proper conditioning, proper weight training and the many different situations that arise during a baseball game,” said Dale Banks, assistant head coach to Rodney Stubbs. “We preach family first, but we also want to have our players as prepared as possible when they step between the white lines.

“Players and coaches alike know that as soon as we walk through the doors, we are focused on baseball with the goal of getting better 1% each practice, which I think we consistently do.”

The Indians are counting on their most experienced senior players — co-captains Josh Gerken, Josh Zambito and Anthony Sciulli — to lead the charge to a possible playoff push, particularly early in the season.

“One early expectation is to certainly be competitive in every game. Right out of the gate, we expect our seniors to lead by example and perform to their capabilities,” Banks said.

Gerken is a multifaceted talent who plays first or third base and pitches.

“I have coached Josh since about the age of 9 or 10. He has really matured into a well-rounded athlete,” Banks said. “He was a member of the school fitness team and ran long distance for track.

“Baseball-wise, he’s the complete player. He’s able to play multiple positions and play them well. Josh is very smart at the plate. He is able to hit for power and average and doesn’t strike out much. He also possesses an above-average arm and has consistently shown accuracy with middle- and long-range throws.”

Gerken, who has played baseball for eight years, said the Indians are gearing for a playoff appearance in 2021.

“It will be a huge accomplishment for me and the other captains,” he said, “leading the underclassmen in the right direction and making the playoffs. My goal for this year is to guide the underclassmen in the right direction to build their character and athletic abilities. They have come a long way since December, and I’m very proud of all us.”

Zambito plays first base and pitches and serves as an emergency catcher. He plans to continue his baseball career this fall at the University of Maine.

“He has great power at the plate,” Banks said. “He is the first Division 1 baseball player from Penn Hills.”

Sciulli also is a pitcher/infielder who plays second base and is being counted on to provide some offensive firepower this season.

“He’s a very good team leader as well,” Banks said.

“We work off of each other in practice,” Gerken said. “We all have different skill sets that hit all areas of baseball.

“We have developed a (baseball) family. All of us are close. We pick up each other and hold one another accountable academically and athletically. This has been my favorite year so far, and we’re going to do big things this season.”

Banks offered high praise for junior catcher Jordy Sullivan, particularly for his defensive prowess.

“His arm is electric behind the plate,” Banks said.

Two leading freshman prospects are outfielders Chyno Spearman and Philmore Austin.

“Chyno Spearman has all the skills to be a outstanding player,” Banks said. “Philmore Austin rotates positions in the outfield due to his speed and versatility.”

Two other seniors who joined the club late are Royce Hearn and Jonah Silverman, both multi-sport athletes.

“Royce Hearn joined us from the basketball team and is a utility infielder/outfielder,” Banks said. “Jonah Silverman is a utility outfielder who also runs track.”

Rounding out the squad are juniors Dominic Sullivan (CF/P/1B), Brandon Tierney (P/SS) and Dallen Banks (1B); sophomores Lenny Duncan (IF/OF), Owen Williams (C/IF/OF) and Sean Walker (IF); and freshmen Conner Lehman (C/IF) and Mack Byrnes (OF).

Gerken, Zambito, Sciulli, Dominic Sullivan and Tierney most likely will be the main cogs on the team’s pitching staff.

Penn Hills has not had a winning baseball season since 2014 and has not qualified for the playoffs since 2010. The Indians were looking to break both streaks last season until the covid-19 pandemic shut things down.

“Missing the 2020 season was tough on coaches and players alike, especially our seniors who were unable to play,” Banks said. “Honestly, we were primed to make a run last year. With that being said, our players came back even more determined than ever to work harder and show that the 2020 season would have been very fulfilling.

“Unfortunately, again this year, we have missed out on the Cal Ripken Myrtle Beach trip due to covid-19 (concerns).”

Penn Hills is a member of Section 2-5A, joining Armstrong, Fox Chapel, Hampton, Mars, Plum and Woodland Hills.

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