Quaker Valley baseball team works to contend in tough section

Sunday, April 17, 2022 | 10:01 AM

Quaker Valley’s baseball team advanced to the WPIAL Class 4A quarterfinal round a season ago.

QV coach Dean Owrey is looking for another playoff run just as strong — if not stronger — for the Quakers in 2022.

“I expect to see QV baseball in the mix of this difficult section at the end,” Owrey said. “We have a solid baseball team with a nucleus of talented players who gained valuable experience last year and who now understand the level of sustained effort required to win consistently.”

Quaker Valley competes in Section 2-4A, led by Montour, Blackhawk and New Castle last season. The Quakers tied for fourth with Beaver before edging Knoch, 3-2, in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs.

Owrey welcomed back a ton of talent from last year’s club while adding a small group of first-year players into the mix.

Returning starters or players who saw significant action in 2021 include seniors Ethan Faris (SS), Tommaso Floro (3B), Jack Gardinier (CF), Andrew Glas (P/Utility), Declan Haas (P), Zeke Hendricks (C) and Adam Tanabe (P/OF); and juniors Danny Bartels (1B/OF), Jackson Bould (P/1B), Hunter Doherty (2B), Garrett Rader (OF) and Jimmy Zugai (C/OF).

“And we have a nice group of sophomores and freshmen,” Owrey said. “Several compete for our varsity team including first-year players Nick Allan and Gavin Fallgren and freshmen Ryan Finamore and Oscar Roig. We have talent across all four grade levels.”

When asked about the team’s strength, Owrey was quick to respond.

“Our middle defense,” he said, “beginning with our catcher, anchored by our shortstop and second baseman and ending with our center fielder, will make a ton of plays on the baseball and limit the opponent’s offense.

“We have more balance across our hitters than we’ve had in the past, and our speed is sneaky. We are a team that will play fundamentally sound in all dimensions.”

Gardinier and Bartels were starters on the QV boys’ WPIAL championship and PIAA runner-up basketball team this year.

Gardinier anchors the QV outfield and also may do some pitching. He hopes to play in another championship season this spring.

“We have a bunch of confident guys coming out of last season, which is the quality that brings a team to the next level,” he said. “We have every starter returning from last year’s playoff roster. This gives us confidence in meaningful games, something that we’ll have a lot of this year.”

Gardinier, a 6-foot guard on the basketball team, plans to continue his hoops career at Susquehanna. He has a 3.75 GPA.

Similar to his playing style in the gym, Gardinier considers himself to be a team player on the diamond.

“I never really have high expectations for myself heading into baseball,” he said. “Obviously, I care a lot about baseball, but it’s not the sport that I work at the most. I will say that if I have a similar year to what I did last year, then it’s a success.”

Hendricks is another honor roll student at QV. He has a 3.7 GPA and is a National Honor Society member. He plans to continue his baseball career and study biology at Cal (Pa.).

“My expectations are somewhat high,” Hendricks said. “With all the returning starters, I expect that we will have a successful season. A big goal of mine is to help lead my team to a title. It’s been a long time coming for Quaker Valley.”

The QV catcher has most confidence in his team’s defense.

“We have worked hard to become more sound defensively,” Hendricks said. “We rarely make errors. Another strength is also our team chemistry.”

While the QV baseball team entertains thoughts being a serious playoff contender, its biggest challenge may be securing a postseason berth in the section.

New Castle is the defending WPIAL and PIAA champion, racking up an 18-9 record in 2021. Montour and Blackhawk also were WPIAL and PIAA qualifiers a year ago, as Montour lost to New Castle in the WPIAL finals and state semifinals.

“Although there are many strong sections up and down the WPIAL, I believe Section 4A is among the most difficult of any,” Owrey said. “Few sections can claim producing the perennial WPIAL and state championship winner or runner-up, and it’ll be another tough section to work through.

“Everyone recognizes the strong brand of certain teams from their past success, but people shouldn’t be surprised when teams in this section beat up on each other. There will be plenty of close games where one or two mistakes will separate the winner from the loser. We intend to play fundamentally sound baseball and limit the mistakes because the margin for error in this stacked section punishes you otherwise.”

Quaker Valley, 9-12 in 2021, has advanced to the playoffs seven times in the past eight seasons that have been played, with six winning records in seven years. The Quakers were section titlists from 2013-2016.

QV lost its first two section games to Montour this season, 3-2 and 6-4. QV also defeated South Side Beaver, 16-7, and lost to Central Valley, 5-4.

“Despite having lost our first two section games against Montour, I know our team will bounce back,” Hendricks said. “Don’t count Quaker Valley out.”


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