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 Sunday, May 9, 1999

SPORTS

 C-6 


 

Tri-Co fields 15 teams as its 57th season bows




Of The Morning Call


 

The Cedarbrook Sports Complex, located in the shadows of Dorney Park's Steel Force coaster in South Whitehall Township, is a relatively new facility on the Lehigh Valley's baseball landscape.

It's not as well known as historic Limeport Stadium, Earl F. Hunsicker/Bicentennial Park, Coplay's Balliet Stadium or many other area ballparks.

But if Cedarbrook wasn't on the baseball map before last year, it certainly became the center of attention last August when it became the home of the Tri-County Baseball League championship series.

For the first time in a long time, if not ever, the title series was played on the same field -- Cedarbrook -- that served as home for both the champion South Whitehall Serpents and runner-up Cetronia Longhorns.

But does the road to the 1999 Tri-Co title also go through the Cedarbrook Complex?

Limeport and Gabelsville, long-time Tri-Co powers, would like to take the title series back through their tiny communities. So would several other Tri-Co clubs.

The Tri-Co began its 57th season Saturday with 15 teams vying for the taste of champagne the Serpents enjoyed last summer when they ended Limeport's two-year title reign.

The 15 teams are divided into three five-team divisions. The three division winners along with the next best four teams will compete in the playoffs.

To get to the postseason, each team will play a 32-game regular season schedule (three games against division rivals and two games each against the other 10 teams in the league).

The league offers familiar faces in new places.

For example, longtime Upper Perk standout Bob Graber is playing for longtime rival Gabelsville.

Former Emmaus and Center Valley player-manager Dave Ernst is now in charge of the Stahley's franchise. And Dave Schneck, the former New York Met, will make his Tri-Co debut in an ICC Pirate uniform, where he may get the chance to play in the same lineup as his son, Cory.

And while the Tri-City Fleetwings are a new entry, they feature several Tri-Co graybeards like former Stahley's star Ray Ganser and ex-Limeport standout Dennis Kinney. The Fleetwings will play their home games at Lehigh University.

With research provided by Bob Ornosky, the league's PR director, here's a team-by-team look:

WEST-SOUTH DIVISION

CETRONIA

Manager: George Horn.

Home field: Cedarbrook.

Last year: 18-15 regular season, 25-19 overall. Defeated Stahley's in one-game playoff and Lehigh Township and Gabelsville before losing to South Whitehall in the finals.

Key returnees: Pete Spisszak (.410, 5 HRs, 27 RBIs); Hassan DeJesus (.320, 6 doubles, 27 runs); Andy Hammer (.307, 26 runs); Jeremy Warmkessel (.413, 30 runs); Matt Moore (.409, 28 runs); Mike Merkel (.442, 9 HRs, 44 RBIs); Tom Williams (.400, 7 HRs).

Outlook: The Longhorns went on a late-season tear with 10 wins in their last 12 games just to gain the final playoff spot in '98. With Merkel, a three-time league MVP leading a potent offense, Longhorns should be able to outscore just about anyone.

GABELSVILLE

Manager: Mike Moyer.

Home field: Gabelsville A.A. in Boyertown.

Last year: 28-4 in regular season; 30-7 overall. Lost to Cetronia in semifinals.

Key returnees: Jeff Evans (.449, 30 RBIs, 28 runs); Greg Gilbert (.477, 29 RBIs, 27 runs); Shawn Betz (9-0, 42 Ks); Matt Eisenhard (4- 2, 38 Ks).

Key additions: Bob Graber (from Upper Perk), Justin Konnick (Boyertown Legion); A.J. Bohn (Boyertown Legion); Steve Gabel (Boyertown Legion).

Outlook: The Owls lost the Drumbore brothers, Mike and Bob, but have enough new talent aboard to compensate. Gabelsville hasn't won a league title since 1995, but still has been the league's most dominant franchise this decade with four titles and eight crowns overall since 1984.

MILFORD PIONEERS

Manager: Don Rosenberger.

Home field: Milford Middle School.

Last year: 4-28.

Key returnees: Ron Hack (.250); Kyle Kichline (.427, 3 HRs).

Outlook: The Pioneers stung Stahley's last season for what may have been the biggest win in the franchise's eight-year history. Rosenberger hopes his team can compete with the big boys on a more frequent basis this year.

SOUTH WHITEHALL

Manager: Kevin Hutter (1998 Manager of the Year).

Home field: Cedarbrook.

Last year: 19-13 regular season, 27-16 overall. Defeated Sports Page, Limeport and Cetronia in the playoffs.

Key returnees: Chuck Mondschein (.349); Jeff Erie (.333); Eric Csencsits (.250, 19 runs); Rob Gontkosky (5-2, 66 Ks, .418, 31 RBIs); Jud Frank (4-3, 30 Ks); Todd Schmalze (4-3, 26 Ks).

Key additions: Jeff Stoneback; Jeremy Schmalze.

Outlook: Mondschein hasn't struck out since July 1996, a span of 66 games and 221 at-bats. The Serpents could be just as tough to get out of the championship circle. In Gontkosky, the Tri-Co's Most Valuable Player, the Serpents may have the most complete player in all of area baseball. South Whitehall would like to say good-bye to Lou Falco, a 23-year Tri-Co vet, with a second straight title.

UPPER PERK CHIEFS

Manager: Steve Rush.

Home field: Upper Perkiomen High School.

Last year: 10-22.

Key returnees: Joe Ricapito (.351, 34 hits, 27 RBIs); Dan Moyer (.395, 8 doubles); Dave Pierce (.326); Chris Patton (48 Ks); Matt Rush (3-1, 26 Ks).

Outlook: The Chiefs have a mix of seven returnees and seven first- year players. It'll be strange not having Graber around for a franchise that has mostly stumbled since its last title in 1987.

NORTH DIVISION

ALLENTOWN SENATORS

Manager: Joe Sedler.

Home field: Scherersville No. 5 off Lenhart Road.

Last year: 10-22.

Key returnees: Joe Sedler (.432, 8 HRs, 43 RBIs); Pat Sedler (.438, 22 RBIs); Darren Weaver (.398, 27 runs); Mike Turrano (.382, 42 hits); Julio Lebron (.352).

Key additions: Joel Carl (Quakertown); Mark Jarrell; Tony Orobono; Chad Dreisbach; Juan Lopez.

Outlook: Having been called the Valley Athletics last season, the Senators have gone back to their original name. The club hopes to build on its .362 team batting mark (third-best in the league) and change their third-worst team pitching stats to make a run at their first playoff berth.

JORDAN CREEK GATORS

Manager: Dave Snyder.

Home field: Scherersville No. 1.

Last year: 9-23.

Key returnees: Frank Johnson (.446, 11 HRs, 42 RBIs); Fabian Acevedo (.382, 29 RBIs); Tony Toth (.385).

Key additions: Phil Torcivia (Quakertown); Shawn Cadden (Stahley's).

Outlook: Johnson was the league's home run champ in '98. Gators hope new additions will give Johnson help as they try to make the playoffs for the first time since 1992.

LEHIGH TOWNSHIP BREWERS

Manager: Shawn Andrews.

Home field: Bryfogle Field in Berlinsville.

Last year: 22-10 regular season, 22-12 overall. Lost to Cetronia in playoffs.

Key returnees: Andrews (.385, 23 RBIs); Todd Greb (.360, 40 RBIs); Matt Smull (.432, 26 RBIs); Dan Roth (.438); Josh Friebolin (7-1, 44 Ks); Tom Laury (5-3, 41 Ks).

Outlook: Brewers won North Division title in '98 in their first year. They hope to get past first round of playoffs this time with a balanced attack.

NORTHERN YANKEES

Manager: Jason Strunk.

Home field: Scherersville No. 5 off Lenhart Road.

Last year: 15-17.

Key returnees: Strunk (.394, 6-0, 32 Ks); Gabe Santilli (.421); Brian Buchman (.368); Geoff Leibensperger (.329).

Key additions: Jason Young (Silver Creek); Gordy Kocher.

Outlook: Late-season slump cost the Yanks a playoff shot last year. Young, owner of a 48-10 career pitching mark, should bolster a pitching staff that dragged team down last year.

STAHLEY'S MARINERS

Manager: Dave Ernst.

Home field: Scherersville No. 1.

Last year: 17-16. Lost one-game playoff to Cetronia.

Key returnees: Dave Lutte (.280, 22 RBIs); Jeff Snyder (.383, 8 HRs); Steve Wippel (.343, 26 runs).

Key additions: Todd Balliet (Quakertown); Brian Spadt (Quakertown); Bob Castimore (Valley Athletics); Dave Hartranft (Center Valley).

Outlook: One of the league's most successful franchises has taken on a new look. The combination of Stahley's holdovers and former Center Valley players brought over by Ernst should make the Mariners a contender for league honors.

EAST/CENTRAL DIVISION

ICC PIRATES

Manager: Mike Brosious.

Home field: Bethlehem Township.

Last year: 19-13, regular season, 19-15 overall. Lost to Limeport in playoffs.

Key returnees: Nick Remaly (.411, 10 doubles); Rich Gaugler (.381); Brent Fehnel (.372); Eric Baran (8-2, 51 Ks); Jeremy Kacuba (6-2, 55 Ks).

Key additions: Dan Lopez, Kyle Ruff, Chris Corriere, Dave Schneck.

Outlook: Pirates have become a playoff regular, but can't seem to get past Limeport. Potent pitching and a star-studded offense led by last year's Rookie of the Year, Remaly, could propel Pirates into league's final four.

LIMEPORT BULLS

Manager: Bill Fatzinger.

Home field: Limeport Stadium.

Last year: 26-6 regular season, 27-9 overall. Lost to South Whitehall in semifinals.

Key returnees: Fatzinger (.388, 31 RBIs); Glenn Kushma (.519, 6 HRs, 30 RBIs, 40 runs); Kevin Kershner (.328, 29 RBIs); Glenn Bubser (.494); Scott Heppenheimer (.337, 29 runs); Pat Toner (5-0, 37 Ks).

Key additions: Matt Brader, John Michael Vito, Pat Lane.

Outlook: The Bulls lost some quality players in Kinney, Jeff Sabo, Mike Geiger, Tim Brader and Jason Sigley. They have enough offensive firepower to win the division and make a run at third title in four years.

SILVER CREEK ORIOLES

Manager: Bob Ornosky.

Home field: Silver Creek A.A. in Springtown.

Last year: 6-26.

Key returnees: Sean Arrington (.278, 16 runs); Jon Ference(.381, 16 runs).

Key additions: Keith Strohl.

Outlook: The Orioles move from nearby Quakertown to Springtown. They hope to change their record and fortunes along with their home site.

SPORTS PAGE RED SOX

Manager: Jason Wotring.

Home field: Pfeifle Field in Bethlehem.

Last year: 22-10 regular season, 23-12 overall.

Key returnees: Dave Stalsitz (.409, 8 doubles, 29 RBIs); Jim Brezack (.456, 33 RBIs, 34 runs); Johnny Rodriguez (.366); Chris Frey (8-3, 62 Ks).

Key newcomers: Dylan Dando (Lehigh Township); Josh Gunkle (Stahley's).

Outlook: The Red Sox had an outstanding regular season but were hurt by the lack of personnel in the playoffs. They had too many double-rostered players involved with the Blue Mountain League. They have added a pair of talented pitchers in Dando and Gunkle to join Frey in a solid rotation.

TRI-CITY FLEETWINGS

Manager: Bob Fatzinger.

Home field: Lehigh.

Outlook: This is not a typical first-year team. No club has more experience. The manager is a 20-year Tri-Co veteran. He has put together a team of vets who still love to compete. As a bonus, the team features several father-and-son combos, including Bob and Teague Fatzinger, Chad and Dan Waelchli, Brendan and Mike Witkowski and Tom and Ryan George. They also feature a who's who of local amateur baseball stars with Dave Toth, Ganser, Matt Hlay and Kinney all aboard. Youngsters include Casey Paras, Joe Turri, Scott Garger and Myron Trunick. This is a very interesting club that might be able to compete for a playoff spot if those older legs and arms hold up.



keith.groller@mcall.com

  

From The Morning Call -- May 9, 1999

Copyright 1999, The Morning Call