Penn-Trafford baseball sets sights on winning section championship

Monday, March 18, 2019 | 9:00 PM

There isn’t any question that Penn-Trafford baseball lost some talented players to graduation with all five departed seniors going on to play in college.

The good news, however, is that a deep team chock-full of varsity experience returns and is ready to shoulder the load.

Josh Spiegel (Oklahoma State), Zach Mancz (Slippery Rock), Ben Mongelluzzo (Clarion), Christian Pfronger (Pitt-Johnstown) and Max Pici (Mt. Aloysius) were all key cogs for a team that went 13-6 overall and tied for second in Section 2-6A a season ago.

But this year’s group is keen on staying pointed toward its goal of competing for a section title.

“I feel like we have competitive balance at every position, but we’re competing with each other and not against each other,” Penn-Trafford coach Dan Miller said. “This is a team is a special team based on the chemistry they have, and I’m a believer that chemistry is important. Everybody on our team knows they have a role, and whatever that role is they have to find a comfort level in it to help us win.

“We’ve always said great teams win, not great players. These kids all seem to like each other, and they’re all mature.”

The depth starts with a senior-laden pitching staff fronted by Tyler Horvat, who pitched in some big games last year. He had a 10-strikeout virtuoso in a 7-0 win over rival Norwin, and he started Penn-Trafford’s playoff game against North Allegheny last year, a 6-0 loss.

Fellow seniors MacLean Maund and Tyler Chrise are also expected to log a lot of innings.

“Horvat has certainly earned the reputation and responsibility to be a No. 1 pitcher, but we also have some other guys we feel very comfortable with,” Miller said. “We feel like Horvat, MacLean Maund and Tyler Chrise can be the three workhorses of our staff.”

Senior Bobby Kusinsky and juniors Zach Kelly, Hayden Ford and Cameron DePalma also are expected to pitch.

Horvat and Chrise will likely be in the outfield when they aren’t on the mound. Jordan Sabol, a first-team all-section center fielder last year, returns, as well as junior Bobby Lane, a Cincinnati recruit, and Luke Fabac, who returns after not playing his junior year.

Another senior, Mario Disso, returns at shortstop. He made only one error his sophomore season, but Miller said he had a tougher time last season.

“He was a very good defensive player his sophomore year, but I think he’d be the first to tell you that he wasn’t at his best last year,” Miller said. “I think he’s ready to prove that when he’s at short and the ball is hit to him that it should be an out every time.”

Anthony Sherwin moves from second base to third, and Cade Patterson will move from third to catcher, replacing Spiegel. Patterson was a catcher for his summer travel team.

There are a couple of battles or potential platoons for the other spots in the infield, with Jon Peduzzi and Connor Bannais at second and Maund, Giovanni Scott and Chrise at first.

Penn-Trafford loses Penn Hills from Section 1, but a familiar rival returns in Latrobe. Plum, Norwin, Connellsville and Hempfield make up the rest of a stout section.

“I’m not going to say we missed (Latrobe) when they left, because they’re a very good baseball team and well-coached like every team in our section,” Miller said. “Hempfield returns a good team, Norwin is always well-coached and has a very disciplined team, and Plum is another team you look at when you’re talking about the best teams in 6A baseball.

“We feel that we can compete with this section this year, and we certainly have high expectations. We’re not going to hide from those expectations. We know what we can do, and we have our sights set on winning a section title.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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