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 Friday, May 9, 1997

SPORTS

 C-8 


 

Out of mix in '96, Gabelsville should be back

The Owls, knocked out in the first round last year, don't go long between championships.



Of The Morning Call


 

The Gabelsville franchise in the Tri-County League doesn't go for long stretches without winning titles.

Since the club entered the league in 1984 as the Gilbertsville Rangers, the longest the organization has gone without winning a crown is two seasons. And the last time that happened was a decade ago in 1987 and '88.

Gabelsville didn't win the title a year ago. The Owls were upset by ICC in the first round of the playoffs and that makes them all the more dangerous in the 1997 season, which begins this weekend.

The Tri-Co has a few new wrinkles for '97.

Most importantly, the league added a new team, the Bethlehem Red Sox, which will feature players who had spent time with Milford and Woody's.

Speaking of Woody's, it is no longer Woody's. That team has gone back to its former sponsor, Stahley's, the renowned East Side bar/restaurant in Allentown.

And the East Texas team has moved its home base to the Cedarbrook Complex and will now be known as the Cetronia Longhorns.

This is not to be confused with the Cetronia organization that had an entry in the Tri-Co until 1996 and then moved to Easton.

Each team will play a 34-game schedule with the top seven teams (three division winners and four wild cards) earning playoff berths in August. In the first round of the playoffs, the team with the best regular-season mark gets a bye.

With a big assist from the league's new publicity director, Bob Ornosky, here's a team-by-team look:

* SOUTH DIVISION

Gabelsville -- The Owls, 23-9 last year, seek their fifth Tri-Co title in the 1990s and their ninth in 14 years with a strong lineup led by Jeff Evans, Bob Drumbore and Dave Miller. Newcomers include East Stroudsburg University's Matt Eisenhard and former Quakertown Blazer Josh Williamson.

Cetronia -- The Longhorns, a disappointing 13-17 in '96, still had the league's MVP in Matt Merkel. He led the league in five offensive categories with numbers including a .500 batting average, 14 home runs and 46 RBIs. After a year away, George Horn is back as manager and he'll be counting on Dan Hayes to anchor the pitching staff along with Troy Phillips and Bob Brown.

Milford -- The Pioneers increased their win total from four in '95 to 10 last year.

Don Rosenberger lost four players to the Red Sox and is looking for a few good pitchers to pick up the slack. He even invites potential pitchers to call him at (610) 966-4349 if interested.

Quakertown -- The Orioles were a league-worst 4-28 last year and new manager Jon Ference, a 20-year veteran, hopes to at least double the win total this year.

He will be counting on veteran pitcher Joe Ambrose to anchor the pitching staff.

Upper Perk Chiefs -- The Chiefs haven't won a league title since 1983 and are looking for better times than the 10-22 misery they experienced last summer.

Bob Graber, the Tri-Co's all-time leader in hits, RBIs and runs, is the offensive catalyst along with Joe Ricapito and player-manager Mike Svanson, who batted .393 and .353, respectively, in '96.

* CENTRAL DIVISION

Limeport -- The Bulls are the defending champs after a 24-8 regular season mark in '96.

Former major leaguer Dennis Kinney was sharper than ever last summer (8-0, 1.50 ERA and 53 strikeouts) and is back for more. He is joined on a talented pitching staff by Rob Schultz (6-2, 2.66 ERA and 56 Ks) and former East Texas star Tim Brader (2-0, 0.97 ERA).

Offensively, the Bulls will be paced by player-manager Bill Fatzinger, Glenn Kushma, Glenn Bubser and Kevin Kershner. Newcomers Pete Snyder, John Rodriguez and Justin DeLong will help make up for the loss of Josh Williams, who has signed a contract with the Allentown Ambassadors.

Center Valley -- The Braves have a new sponsor, the Peppercorn Pub, and a hard-throwing pitcher in Eric Spadt, who starred at Northampton High. He'll join Steve Rau and Rob Castimore in forming one of the league's strongest pitching staffs.

Player/manager Dave Ernst is an offensive threat along with Matt Kollhoff.

ICC -- The Pirates gave Limeport all it could handle in the semis last year and look to go a step further this year behind a deep mound staff led by the league's pitching MVP Eric Baran (9-1, 1.71 ERA and 56 Ks). Also giving ICC an edge in the arms race will be Allentown College standout Darryl Evans and 1996 saves leader Marty Rowan.

Rich Gaugler, Chris Medei and Pete Remaly, who all batted .354 or better in '96, lead the offense.

Silver Creek -- The Raiders, 19-13 last season, are looking for their sixth straight playoff berth. Co-managers Matt and Steve Smull are among the team's top players and look to Bob Osipower (.375) and Ryan Blair (4-3, 29 Ks) to make major contributions.

Allentown -- The Senators were 16-16 in just their second year of existence in '96. Player-manager Joe Sedler (.367, 9 HRs, 33 RBIs) will be an offensive leader as will Todd Greb and Rob Seyfried, who batted .327 and .319, respectively.

Bethlehem -- The Red Sox have 12 players with Tri-Co experience and should be an immediate contender in the Central Division.

Home games will be played at Pfeifle Field.

* NORTH DIVISION

Stahley's -- The Scherersville-based team went 23-9 in the regular season and reached the finals a year ago.

Tony Galucy and Keith Brader are gone, but familiar faces like Ray Ganser, Josh Gunkle, Dale Weiss and Jeff Snyder are back. DH Mookie Smith is back after missing most of last season because of a knee surgery.

This is also the swan song for one of the league's good guys and pure hitters, Herb Hemerly, who is retiring after 25 seasons.

South Whitehall -- A 21-11 season earned skipper Kevin Hutter "Manager of the Year" honors in 1996. The Serpents are looking for more awards this year with Andy Kies, Lou Falco, and Chuck Mondschein leading a potent offense.

Jim Emerick, Randy Baer and Rob Gontkosky give the team pitching depth.

Easton -- The Bulldogs had some bite in their new home last summer, going 15-16. Pitching star Jason Young (7-2, 1.18 ERA) and Darren Sutton (.333) are two reasons the club hopes to push above .500 this season.

Northern Yankees -- These Yanks didn't finish as strongly as the team that plays in the Bronx, but Northern did win eight of its last 11 games last year to take some enthusiasm into the new campaign. More reasons for optimism are rookies Brian Ware and Tim Superka.

Castle Hill -- This group was at the bottom of the North Division hill in '96, but hopes to challenge the league's elite this year behind a strong offense featuring Sam Cadden (.414), Rich McKenzie (.405) and Fabian Acevedo (.301).



keith.groller@mcall.com

  

From The Morning Call -- May 9, 1997

Copyright 1997, The Morning Call