Reloaded baseball team has title aspirations
Baseball is such a way of life in Clarence, from the time a boy can lace up his spikes and slip on his first glove, that there’s no reason to doubt the Red Devils’ chances at contending for an ECIC Division I championship on a yearly basis — even in a season like this spring, when Clarence has just four players returning from the previous year.
Of course, having two of those four returning players as key members of the pitching staff doesn’t hurt the Red Devils’ chances.
Coach Dave Smith barely paused to think when identifying pitching as his team’s strength this year. That instinctual answer came with little hesitation thanks to the presence of senior lefty Ryan Lawrence and junior Mark Armstrong in the Red Devils’ rotation.
Lawrence, who will also play center field this year, gave up just two hits — including a two-out, two-run double in the seventh inning — in the solid early-season outing that was Clarence’s 2-1 loss to Lancaster on April 2.
Armstrong, a third-year hurler and reigning ECIC I Second Team All-star, is now the ace of the staff. Armstrong gave the University of Pittsburgh — where he has verbally committed to pitch – an eye-popping sneak peak at what’s to come in two years with his 15-strikeout, no hit performance in Clarence’s 3-0 win over Jamestown March 28.
Juniors Chris Ossa (outfield/third base) and Mark Materise (third base) will also see some time on the mound this year.
“The strength of our team will be on the mound this year,” Smith said. “With the new bats we have to use this year that basically work like wood bats, it’s going to be more difficult to get hits — and really works to our strength.”
Other returning players include seniors Zach Zabel (second base), Nick Ferry (first base) and Jordan Honsberger (outfield/third base). Zabel is slated to be the team’s leadoff hitter, while Ferry, the team’s cleanup hitter, “played first base 90 percent of the time last year,” according to Smith.
Players currently locked into, or vying for, starting roles this season include juniors Bobby Florio (shortstop), Devon Goeller (right field) and Matt Nawrot (catcher), and sophomore Alex McGlue (catcher). Rounding out the roster are juniors Joe Matteson, Jamie Bly, Patrick Elwood, Chris Travis and PJ Martucci.
“Devon has really swung the bat well for us in our first couple of games, and both Matt and Alex have been working hard and doing a nice job behind the plate,” Smith said. “Our team is solid when it all comes down to it. Defense, pitching and execution are going to be at a premium this year; you’re not going to be able to overcome four errors with four runs in the sixth or five runs in the seventh.”
Clarence kicked off its 2012 season in style with its win over Jamestown, scoring single runs in the second, fourth and fifth innings to give Armstrong all the support he would need. Armstrong, who was involved in 19 of the 21 possible outs in some form, helped his cause by collecting two hits of his own. Goeller also had two hits to help Clarence offensively.
“Armstrong was just dominant against Jamestown,” Smith said. “They weren’t able to hit a single ball to the outfield.”
In the loss to Lancaster five days later, a pitcher’s duel going into the seventh inning was broken up by a pair of hit batsmen, which helped the Redskins take a 2-0 lead in the top of the inning. Clarence was able to get runners on second and third, with one out, in the bottom of the inning, and Florio’s RBI single cut Lancaster’s lead in half and left runners on the corners. A double play that included a runner being thrown out at home ended the game before Clarence could complete its rally.
“Even though we were disappointed to not win, we had five quality at-bats in our last up, which was really encouraging,” Smith said. “It was nice to see our kids respond to the challenge.”
Clarence (1-1 overall) was scheduled to travel to Rochester Tuesday to face Webster Thomas in the first game of its active spring break slate of games, but information about that contest — including whether or not the weather even allowed it to be played — was not available at press time.
Weather permitting, Clarence will close out its week with games against Webster Schroeder today, West Genesee on Friday and Fayetteville Manlius on Saturday. Both Friday and Saturday’s contests will be played on the road in the Syracuse region.
Clarence will return to league action Monday at West Seneca West.
“We’ll be ready to roll once spring break ends,” Smith said. “We’ve been to the sectional finals five years in a row, and we’ve won four of those games, so there are some high expectations to live up to — but I think we’re up for the challenge. The key is going to be execution, especially when the playoffs come around. We’ve had a lot of firepower over the last few years to where we could get by in a regular season game without good execution. This year, though, we need to be on top of our game every time we step on the diamond. We’re going to have to pitch and defend well, because it’s going to be tough to come back offensively in any game with these new bats.” email: firstname.lastname@example.org
|4-11||Webster Schroeder||11 a.m.|
|4-13||at West Genesee (at||LeMoyne||College) noon|
|4-16||at West Seneca West||5 p.m.|
|4-18||Orchard Park||4:30 p.m.|
|4-20||at Frontier||5 p.m.|
|4-23||Williamsville North||4:45 p.m.|
|4-25||at Sweet Home||4:45 p.m.|
|4-27||at Lancaster||4:45 p.m.|
|4-30||at Jamestown||4:30 p.m.|
|5-2||West Seneca West||4:45 p.m.|
|5-4||at Orchard Park||5 p.m.|
|5-9||at Williamsville North||4:45 p.m.|
|5-11||Sweet Home||4:30 p.m.|
|5-16||St. Joe’s||4:30 p.m.|
|5-18||Iroquois (at Clarence||Town||Park) 8:15 p.m.|
** Schedule subject to change due to unforeseen circumstances. For up-to-the-minute information, call 407-9058 or visit www.highschoolsports.net.