Thomas Jefferson baseball starts fresh with new coach

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Friday, March 29, 2019 | 8:11 PM


First-year coach Tim Vickers and his staff are looking to turn around the fortunes of the Thomas Jefferson baseball program.

TJ finished 6-14 last season, coming in sixth place in Section 3-5A.

The Jaguars are hoping to rebound behind four returning starters.

“We have been working on every single facet of the game, breaking each part down to the basic fundamentals,” said Vickers, who is assisted by Dean Altavilla and Scott Callaway. “The entire roster has been working hard from Day 1.”

Vickers played baseball at South Allegheny and at Cal (Pa.). He previously coached Steel Valley for 12 years.

Vickers’ approach is simple.

“I believe in fundamentals,” he said. “A team must concentrate on and master the fine details of the game before having the opportunity to be successful on the field.”

TJ’s returning starters are senior catcher Josh Reynolds and juniors Mike Huber (1B), Dylan Mallozzi (IF/P) and Cam Dimidjian (P/OF).

“I have high expectations for the team,” Reynolds said. “If we stay focused on each game and keep the energy up, I believe we will have a good year. Our pitching is our strength, but the bats aren’t far behind.”

Reynolds plans to play at Pitt-Johnstown next year.

“My personal goals are to help the team in any way I can,” he said, “and prepare myself in the best way possible for college ball next year. If I complete those goals every game, the rest of my expectations will fall in place.”

McClain Flinn (IF/P) and Ryan Sluk (OF/P) are top freshman prospects who are expected to make an immediate impact, and sophomore Preston Zandier will start in the outfield.

Other key players include seniors Andy Kalup (DH) and Thomas D’Ascenzo (P), as well as juniors Noah Pierce (OF), Dom Pearson (3B/P) and Ethan Daerr (IF).

Seniors Anthony Lekse (P/OF), Justin Covelli (OF) and Stephen Bond (P/OF) round out the roster.

“I simply expect us to get a little better every day,” Vickers said. “Being new to TJ baseball, I really don’t know how these young men will perform under the pressure of a meaningful game.”

Thomas Jefferson recently returned from its annual spring-training trip to the Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

“The trip went very well,” Vickers said. “The opportunity to get outside to practice and play games in warm weather this time of year is invaluable. We had the chance to scrimmage and play against some very high competition down there.

“Winning a couple games versus this competition will hopefully catapult our guys into the season.”

The Jaguars defeated Berks Catholic, 15-2, and Spring-Ford, 3-1. They dropped a 9-7 decision to Pickerington North (Ohio).

“The Myrtle trip went great,” Reynolds said. “We went 2-1 playing very solid teams. It is just an overall great atmosphere to play in.”

TJ and McKeesport have dropped to Class 4A this season, replacing Keystone Oaks and McGuffey in Section 3 while joining Belle Vernon, Elizabeth Forward, Ringgold, South Park, Uniontown and West Mifflin.

Ringgold is the defending section champion. The Rams advanced to the WPIAL finals and won the PIAA crown last year.

West Mifflin, South Park and Belle Vernon also were playoff qualifiers in 2018.

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