With athleticism and versatility, Quaker Valley baseball confident heading into season

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Sunday, March 28, 2021 | 10:01 AM


In the year before Dean Owrey took over the Quaker Valley baseball program, the Quakers won just five games.

In his first season, Owrey and the Quakers captured 11 games and punched their ticket to the WPIAL Class 4A playoffs before losing to South Park, 2-1, in the first round. Now, even after a canceled 2020 season, the Quakers have continued to make strides as they look to return to the playoffs.

“That was kind of a disappointing outcome to otherwise what was a good season and a rebounding season for Quaker Valley because the year before that, they struggled and they had some turnover,” Owrey said. “With losing last year, we lost a fair amount of time, but we were fortunately able to run our late summer/fall program.

“So, these kids ended up having 45-50 touches between games and practices. So, I feel like in the fall, we kind of recaptured what we lost with the canceled 2020 season, and it gave us a little momentum coming into this year.”

The Quakers are in the same boat as most teams this season as they won’t have much experience coming back from 2019. Junior Zeke Hendricks, who is primarily a catcher but will also pitch and play third base, is the lone starter returning. Owrey will also return juniors Jack Gardinier and Ethan Faris, along with senior Caleb Piatt.

All four players were varsity letter winners the last time Quaker Valley took the field, and they all provide this year’s team with athleticism and versatility.

“They have a lot of raw athleticism. They are just fast, gritty, and you can do a lot with grit and athleticism,” Owrey said. “Those four have it, but there are a few others that are around them that make them even better and not so one-dimensional. I would say we were a little more one-dimensional in 2019 with some of our offense. But with those four and a couple other guys, we have the opportunity to be explosive.”

Owrey said sophomore Jimmy Zugai and junior Tomasso Floro will provide Quaker Valley with power. Adam Tanabe, a junior left hander, could also be a big bat in the lineup, Owrey said.

“He’s kind of a lanky left-hander that’s sneaky powerful,” Owrey said. “He doesn’t impose his dominance on you when you look at him, but he can hit the ball hard.”

Overall, the Quakers have a little bit of everything, and Owrey believes that they are going to have more layers to their offense this season than they did two years ago.

“We have speed that will match anyone’s and we have power,” Owrey said. “In 2019, we had Christian Johnston, who changed the dimension of the game with one swing. This year, I have three or four guys that can go deep with one swing. So, we have a little bit more up and down the lineup.”

While their bats might be a strength this season, Owrey said the Quakers will rely on several pitchers. Without one true ace, Owrey said they’ll start the season with a committee approach to keep teams off guard each time they go through the lineup.

“We don’t have a pitcher that’s going to throw it through the opposing team,” Owrey said. “We don’t have a guy that’s going to just shut it down. We have a lot of guys who are decent pitchers, but none that are dominant, so we are going to have to pitch by committee.”

With a number of pitchers set to eat up innings, the Quakers also have a lot of versatility defensively and have multiple guys who will play multiple positions. Owrey believes they will need that this year as playing solid defense will be a key to his team coming away with wins.

“I think we are going to score runs, and I think we are going to be effective baserunners, but I think we have to play sound defense in order to complement our pitching,” Owrey said. “I just gotta have eight guys behind the pitcher who can play defense and make the routine plays.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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