Young Knoch baseball team looks to gain experience as season progresses

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Saturday, March 14, 2020 | 6:34 PM


As seasons carry on, teams start to gain experience, learn from mistakes and reach their full potential when the postseason approaches.

After losing their top four hitters and top two pitchers from a year ago, Knoch will hope that experience builds up a young roster filled with potential.

“I like the guys we have,” Knoch coach Sean O’Donnell said. “We have a lot of athletes, we have six returning players and we have a group of underclassmen that are good ballplayers. But I think we’re gonna have to start a lot of guys that are playing varsity for the first time.”

Along with Jack Bartek and Travis Mowery, who led the pitching staff by eating up 691/3 of a team-total 1161/3 innings pitched, four other seniors led the team at the plate with batting averages ranging from .355 to .473. That same group combined for 31 of the Knights’ 71 RBIs.

The Knights return a few talented players who could lead the young contingent. Senior outfielder Guy Deleonardis tied for a team-high 13 RBIs last season and had a .302 batting average.

He joins guys like junior Gavin Phillips, who hit .353 last year and also pitched 23 innings with a 5.23 ERA, and senior Braden Tristani, who hit .341 with seven RBIs.

“It’s always tough when you lose that many guys,” O’Donnell said. “But I feel like we have a good group of 10th-graders that are getting ready to replace them. It’s just those three years of varsity experience that we’re losing. So, that will be the challenge.”

Bringing the younger players along as the season goes on will be one of the major challenges. But seniors like Tristani and Deleonardis are looking forward to the opportunity, and they already have started to see what the team is willing to do.

“I feel like these guys already get the gist of what we’re trying to accomplish,” Tristani said. “They know what the program is about, they know what winning is about and they are willing to do whatever they have to do to win. So it seems like they are just trying to do their part.”

Said Deleonardis: “These guys work hard. They were at all the conditioning (practices), and they’ve been working since before the season, so they know what they need to do.”

With spring sports season postponed because of health concerns surrounding the coronavirus, the Knights lose a few valuable nonsection games that would have been crucial for the development of their younger players.

O’Donnell said he was hoping to have the ability to play as many of them as possible to bring those young players along and get them acclimated before the games start to count.

“Once these young guys that are facing their first year of varsity pitching get acclimated, I think we’ll be fine,” O’Donnell said. “I really like our pitching, and I really like our defense. I think it will keep us in games. The big thing will be if we can score enough runs. So I’m confident once these guys see varsity pitching, we’ll be all right.”

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

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