Young, small roster has Jeannette baseball facing new challenges

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Wednesday, March 11, 2020 | 6:51 PM


Three years ago, Jeannette was celebrating its first WPIAL baseball title.

As coach Marcus Clarkson prepares for the 2020 season, he hopes he has enough players to play games and complete the season.

Jeannette will open with 12 players on the roster as Clarkson tries to replace eight starters, seven to graduation. Two players, starting shortstop Derrick Miller (Penn-Trafford) and reserve outfielder Kael Fisher (Trinity), transferred.

The Jayhawks finished the 2019 season 9-9 overall, 5-5 in Section 3-2A and dropped a heartbreaking 1-0 decision to Carmichaels in the WPIAL playoffs.

Clarkson will be leaning on senior pitcher Alex Vickers, who was 6-1 as a junior, infielder Alex Kimmel, sophomore catcher Tyler Horn and junior center fielder Emilio Huerta to carry the load.

“Alex (Vickers) is a hard worker, throws strikes and is a leader,” Clarkson said. “I’m looking for good things from Emilio and Tyler. All the players have to step it up.”

Freshman Eli Binakonsky, first baseman/pitcher, has also caught the eye of Clarkson. Binakonsky, who plays football, was a WPIAL junior high wrestling champion and state placewinner.

Those players must replace a talented group the was part of the 2017 WPIAL championship team: first baseman Drake Petrillo, pitcher Seth Howard, rightfielder Matt Pompei, catcher Zander Malik, all-section second baseman Mike McCabe, left fielder Zack Berginc and infielder Ricky Pitzer.

“I’ve been coaching here for 18 years, and I owe it to the guys to get things turned around,” Clarkson said. “It’s going to take three to five years to return to prominence. “

Clarkson said not having enough players to play Junior Legion and American Legion in the summer has hurt the program, along with too many distractions like 7-on-7 football and AAU basketball.

“We do have some good eighth graders coming up,” Clarkson said. “So that’s a positive. But we may have a couple players who never played before in the starting lineup.

“I’m not sure what to expect this season. A lot depends on if we stay healthy and how our top players perform. I’m teaching baseball from square one.”

Serra Catholic and Seton-La Salle shared the section title in 2019, and Clarkson expects those teams to battle for the top spot again. The other teams in the section are Brentwood, Apollo-Ridge and Riverview.

To turn things around, Clarkson said he must involve himself more in the youth programs.

“When this current group went through, I was with them all along the way,” Clarkson said. “We have to get that back.”

But first, surviving the season is the main focus.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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