March 9 - BETHANY, W.Va. - The 2011 season will start with high optimism for the Bethany baseball team, who went 21-18 and are coming off an ECAC bid a year ago. When the Bison travel to Fort Pierce, Fla., to start their season Sept. 12 against Susquehanna, the focus will be getting to the PAC Tournament.
Head Coach Rick Carver is entering his 21st year and will have the largest roster in any of those years. The roster will include a solid set of returners and newcomers who are all ready to compete. Assistant coach Ian Corso will be back for his second season in the third base coaching box, while Duane Lanzy returns as the team’s hitting coach. A new edition to the staff is former Grove City player Jason Onyshko.
“The fall season went very well and the team developed a lot of good team chemistry,” said Carver, the 2010 PAC Coach of the Year. “Tri-Captains Tyler Dillinger, Eric Fudala, and Zac Grayson have helped the talented freshmen class in their transition to college baseball and will provide great leadership as the season goes on.”
The offense will be the strength of this Bison team, which was 44th in the Nation in hitting just a year ago. The outfield will have the most experience. Seniors and Collegiate Baseball Players to Watch Tyler Dillinger (McKeesport, Pa.) and Mike Pegg (Uniontown, Pa./Laurel Highlands) provide the most experience. Dillinger will be going into his fourth season in center field while Pegg makes the transition from right field to left field. Dillinger earned his second consecutive Second Team All-PAC award a year ago when he hit .388 and led the team in runs (45), doubles (15) and tied with a team-high 24 walks. After hitting .350 as a junior, Pegg is a career .320 hitter and has 49 RBIs.
Right field sees juniors Anthony Packer (River Vale, N.J./Pascack Valley Regional) and Alex Evans (Washington, Pa.) competing for the starting spot. Packer has been a proven hitter since joining the Bison in 2009 and batted .374 last year, raising his career average to .339. Evans came onto the scene last year and will provide a lot of athletic ability in his more natural position in the outfield. Dominic Contraguerra (Richmond, Ohio/Edison), Dylan Wassel (Elizabeth Pa./Elizabeth Forward) and Anthony Sparks (Chalkhill, Pa./Uniontown) are all very promising freshmen backing up the returners.
Sophomore Matt Panoessa (Niagara Falls, N.Y.), the main pinch-hitter for the Bison last year, and freshmen Chris Bittinger (Weirton, W.Va./Weir) and Stephen Stanley (Meyersdale, Pa./Meyersdale Area) will provide depth at the outfield corner positions.
The infield will be much improved, as there are three returners at these positions. “The play of our infield defensively will be key in our success this year,” Carver said. The left side of the infield will return D3Baseball.com Third Team All-American Brad Kubis (Aliquippa, Pa./Hopewell). He returns for his sophomore year after having one of the most successful seasons in Bison history, as Kubis led the team in batting average (.450), RBIs (44), hits (68), and on-base percentage (.473). He will be backed up by a trio of freshmen, including the athletic Contraguerra and Anthonie Farrar (Carmichaels, Pa.).
Shortstop will have a new face from a year ago with three more freshmen battling for the starting nod, including Gold Glover Taylor Fortney (Houston, Texas/Springs Woods), who could also back up at third, defensive specialist Juls Leto (McKees Rocks, Pa./OLSH) and Jordan Ault (Jeannette, Pa.).
The right side of the infield will be handled by senior Eric Fudala (Uniontown, Pa./Laurel Highlands) at second base and junior Nate Tieman (Hilliard, Ohio/Hilliard Darby) at first base. Fudala is a Collegiate Baseball Player to Watch and brings offense and defense to the position. Fudala hit a career best .358 last year with 11 doubles, one home run and 19 RBIs. Defensively, he had a fielding percentage of .958 and was part of 19 double plays. Freshmen Ault, who was fifth in the WPIAL in hitting last year, and Jon Pudliner (Johnstown, Pa./Conemaugh Valley) will back-up Fudala.
Tieman comes off a season where he hit .310 and saw an increase in RBIs with 27, while drawing 24 walks. Defensively, he helped turn 30 double plays and has a career fielding percentage of .988. Slugging freshman standout Tanner Werkmann (Germantown, Md./Poolesville) will be backing up Tieman, while sophomore Chuck Ziants (Moundsville, W.Va./John Marshall) and freshman Lee Moog (Pittsburgh, Pa./Seton-LaSalle) provide good depth at first base.
The DH will be battled out by Ziants, Werkmann, and junior transfer David Yuna (Bridgeville, Pa./South Fayette). All three provide power bats, while Paonessa will also be the mix for the DH spot, along with pinch-hit opportunities.
The catcher position will be handled by junior TJ Zarewicz (Pittsburgh, Pa./North Hills) if healthy. Zarewicz was second on the team with three home runs and hit .297 as a sophomore. If Zarewicz is not healthy, highly touted freshmen Farrar and Nate Spears (Richmond, Ohio/Edison) will be in the mix. The experience at the position will come from senior Josh Lawrence (Mather, Pa./Jefferson-Morgan), sophomore David Pivik (Pittsburgh, Pa./Plum) and Yuna.
On the mound, BC has an increase of arms to go with, but many of them are young. “The pitching may be a bit inexperienced, but the depth we have leaves us very optimistic,” says Carver. The conference starters look to be senior Zac Grayson (McKeesport, Pa./South Allegheny), sophomore Zak Kozlowski (Pittsburgh, Pa./Baldwin) and freshmen Zac Edmiston (California, Pa.). Grayson won a team-high five games, while Kozlowski has experience, as he was a conference starter a year ago. Freshmen southpaws Jacob Fischer (Huntington, W.Va.) and Sean Connelly (Amsterdam, Ohio/Edison) also will get quality starts for the Bison.
The long relief core will be made up of three freshmen in Jason Swartmiller (Weirton, W.Va./Weir), Clint Healey (Barnesville, Ohio) and Ault, while sophomore Trent Cornwell (Grove City, Ohio) brings the experience to the group. Middle relief will be senior Mike Muklewicz (Bridgeport, Ohio) and newcomer Stanley.
The back end of the bullpen will be the strength of the pitching staff. The closer Kubis returns after setting a Bison record with 12 saves, which was also good to lead the nation. Power righties Ryan Styche (Buena Vista, Pa./Elizabeth Forward) and Moog will look to be the set-up men. Two good lefty specialists are Bittinger and senior Adam Nyswaner (McDonald, Pa./South Fayette), who holds the Bethany career appearance record with 56 and single-season appearance mark with 21 in 2009.
Rounding out the staff is senior Mike Kochman (Pittsburgh, Pa./Serra Catholic), who will be seen in many different roles for the Bison. “A guy like Kochman can take on many roles because we are confident that no matter the role, he will get outs, compete, and keep us in the game,” says Carver. Kochman threw in a team-high 50.1 innings last year while also being named PAC Pitcher of the Week on May 10.
“We are very excited for the season to begin,” concluded Carver. “We have good chemistry, depth, and the coaching staff needed to reach our goals.”
By Nate Tieman Sports Information Student Assistant