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Strong pitching will lead Molloy, SFP baseball

Evansville-bound pitcher/third baseman Jonathan Ramon will be a key cog for a Molloy team. Photo by Robert Cole
TimesLedger Newspapers

It’s all about the arms this year for Archbishop Molloy.

The expectations are high in Briarwood, mostly because of the depth of pitching the Stanners have coming off a trip to the CHSAA’s final eight.

“I think if our pitchers throw strikes,” legendary Coach Jack Curran said, “we’ll be pretty good.”

Jonathan Ramon, the team’s Evansville-bound star, will be a key cog in the rotation and split time at third base and first. Ramon, though, hasn’t pitched enough to be relied on as the team’s ace, Curran says. Luckily for Molloy, he’ll have plenty of support from Rosario DiLorenzo, Donovan Armas, Greg Boyle, Thomas Ashton and Chris Piteo. Charles Alvarez, who was impressive in a scrimmage Monday against Archbishop Stepinac, will also get a shot.

“Charlie is gonna get in there,” Curran said. “I think overall we’ll be good. We have enough pitchers.”

The coach joked that he didn’t think Molloy would score any runs against Stepinac in the scrimmage, but the Stanners won 9-4. The offense, he said, might surpass his expectations. Ramon and first baseman Mike O’Dwyer will provide pop in the middle of the order, while it’ll be center fielder Frank Peperone, left fielder Kevin Cregan, second baseman Mike Lipovac and utility guy Piteo setting the table.

Tom Hackimer, brother of former Molloy star Ed who played at Iona, will be at shortstop and John Sideris is behind the plate. When he’s not pitching, Armas will be in right field.

Molloy fell to eventual champion Xaverian and Xavier in the CHSAA Class AA double-elimination intersectional tournament last year. Those losses came only after Ramon pitched a six-hit shutout against eventual runner-up All Hallows, striking out five batters.

It’ll be pitching again that defines Molloy in 2012. Curran, in his 54th year at the helm, thinks his team could be in the mix.

“I hope so,” Curran said. “We always like to be there. We’ve been in a lot of them. Hopefully, they’ll do well. We’ll see as things go on.”

St. Francis Prep Coach Bro. Robert Kent thinks his Terriers could be in a similar position, returning a decent core from a final eight squad.

“I think we’re gonna surprise a lot of people,” Kent said.

He’ll be looking to ace Taso Stathopoulos after gaining some valuable experience in 2011 postseason. Against Moore Catholic in a CHSAA Class AA best-of-three third round qualifying series, he threw a complete-game four-hitter in Game 1, won Game 2 in relief and tossed a complete-game three-hitter to seal a series victory for St. Francis Prep.

Stathopoulos will be supported by a solid lineup, led by first baseman/pitcher Nick LoPrinzi, second baseman Gabe Gonzalez, shortstop Danny Pellegrino, third baseman Arron Acosta and center fielder Steve Pelan. Jeremy Fernandez will slide in behind the plate for graduated star Chris Cannon, who is starting at Navy as a freshman.

Kent says the key, though, is in the field. The goal is to return to the double-elimination final eight.

“Our strength is definitely our defense,” Kent said. “We have to play defense. That’s our strong point.”

Pitching will be the thing for Bishop Ford and that begins and ends with Helbert Estevez, the team’s returning ace.

“You expect big things from him every time he takes the mound,” Coach Mike Hanrahan said.

The Falcons figure to be pesky at the top of the lineup with shortstop/pitcher Nelson Lopez and second baseman Danny Arroyo.

“We have a lot of speed at the top of the order and good speed throughout,” Hanrahan said. “We don’t have a lot of power up and down the lineup. We’ll be creative with bunting and moving guys along.”

Left fielder Will Garces figures to be the one driving them in from the cleanup spot. Hanrahan believes his team will rely heavily on pitching and defense, which seems to be a trend throughout the league.

“At this point, I’m cautiously optimistic,” he said.

Nick Melito is taking the same tact with Monsignor McClancy. There is a lot of inexperience on the roster. But the Crusaders do have four core players in ace pitcher Sean O’Melia, shortstop/pitcher Brian Luebcke, third baseman/pitcher Jose Urena and catcher Mike Guglielmi.

Melito is looking forward to developing chemistry during the team’s annual Easter trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C. McClancy won five games in a row after last year’s visit.

“That trip always seems to pay off big time,” Melito said. “We always become a much closer-knit team after that. It’s really something to see.”

Holy Cross and Christ the King will both take the field this year with new coaches. Steve Adams will take over for Doug Manfredonia at Cross and former Molloy standout Greg Modica steps in at Christ the King for Billy Oettinger. St. Edmund Prep will also contend in the division.

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