ST. MARYS — After losing eight seniors off last season’s team, St. Marys will have a much different look if /when it returns to the diamond this season.
While the entire spring sports season is currently uncertain due to the coronavirus, the Dutch will be ready if and when the season begins with a a group of talented returnees along with a handful of new players looking to step into larger roles this year.
St. Marys head coach AJ Meeker noted that it will need to be a total team effort on the field this season.
“Instead of relying on just four or five guys, we now need all nine guys playing to do their job on every pitch,” Meeker said.
Last season the Dutchmen finished the season 10-10, closing with a loss to Clearfield in the District 9 Class 4A title game.
Gone from that team are seniors Brandon Sicheri, Nate Beimel, Shane Price, Kael Azzato, Matt Bellina, Mitchell Bille, Paul Armanini and Adam Piccolo.
Those eight seniors accounted for five of the team’s top seven leaders in hits from last season as well as well as its top three pitchers.
Sicheri, led the team in 2019 in hits (26) and runs (22), while Beimel, a back-to-back TCS/CE Player of the Year, led the team in runs batted in with 19 and Price added 18 RBIs.
Sicheri was also selected as a First-Team TCS/CE All-Star in 2019.
While the team is without a handful of its top hitters from last year, St. Marys does return Jake Meeker, who had its best batting average (.446) last season as a junior.
Meeker was also second in runs (20) and third in runs batted in (13) and will look to be a leader at the plate this year as part of a six-player senior class for the Dutch.
Greg Tettis, Ben Sorg, Kolby Bauer, Harley Penfield and Trevor Adams round out this season’s senior class.
Along with Meeker, juniors Garret Bauer and Connor Bressler will look to step up at the plate after having strong seasons as sophomores.
While he did not play much of a role at the dish last season, Christian Coudriet will look to have a breakout season at the plate in his second season with the team.
“Last year, we asked Christian Coudriet to not worry about his offense and just adjust to high school baseball as a freshman,” Meeker said. “With that experience, he has really improved his offensive skills and will also be a key to our offensive success.”
On the rubber, Beimel (38), Sicheri (31 2/3) and Bellina (24 2/3) accounted for nearly three-fourths of the Dutch’s innings pitched on the year.
Beimel led the way with 89 strikeouts while Sicheri fanned 37 on the year and Bellina was third on the team with 15 punch outs.
This season, Coudriet and Sorg will look to take over the bulk of the innings on the mound for the Dutchmen.
Coudriet saw 14 innings of work as a freshman, allowing 11 runs, nine earned (4.50 ERA) while walking seven and striking out four.
“After that, we will have to see how it unfolds,” Meeker said of his team’s pitching staff. “We have a lot of guys that have the ability, but utintl the season begins, we won’t know.”
While St. Marys finished at .500 last season, it struggled in close games, going 4-6 in games decided by one or two runs.
Meeker said that is the greatness of baseball, noting that in 2018 his team found success in close games, while last season they struggled to finish them off.
“I could give a lot of possibilities as to why that happened,” but bottom line, that’s baseball,” Meeker said.
The head coach noted that if all nine players are ready for their responsibility on each pitch all game, then the team will win more of those games this season.
The starting positions set for the Dutch are Meeker behind the plate, Coudriet at shortstop while he is not on the mound, Vollmer in left field and Fitzgerald in center.
Kolby Bauer and Connor Bressler are battling to see time in right field, while the position battle at first base is between Trevor Adams and Logan Bauer.
Greg Tettis will see time at second and third, while Mitchell Reiter is battling for time at second base and Garret Bauer will look to see time at third.
With Pennsylvania schools being closed for the next couple weeks, that puts a halt to all after-school activities as well, as the Dutchmen join all other area teams in having to halt their preseason practices.
Prior to that decision, which came on Friday, Meeker noted he had done nothing different in the season’s preparation and he now hopes his players will do everything they can to prepare for the season on their own.
“We are in uncharted waters,” Meeker said. “I am hoping our boys will get their swings in and our pitchers will get bullpens in, but that’s all I can do, hope,” Meeker said.
St. Marys was scheduled to open the season March 25 at home against Punxsutawney, as the season will be delayed until at leas March 30, as it could potentially begin the year with a home contest against Elk County Catholic March 30.
Seniors: Greg Tettis, Jake Meeker, Ben Sorg, Kolby Bauer, Harley Penfield, Trevor Adams. Juniors: Michael Fitzgerald, Connor Bressler, Mitchell Reiter, Logan Bauer, Garret Bauer. Sophomores: Alex Vollmer, Conner Straub, Christian Coudriet.