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 Wednesday, June 28, 2000




Youth and experience serving second-year Fleetwings well in Tri-County

Of The Morning Call


With the Tri-County League-leading Tri-City Fleetwings, experience is serving youth.

Or is it the other way around?

The 'Wings were founded last year by a grizzled group of baseball lifers including Bob Fatzinger, Dan Waelchli, Mike Witkowski and Tom George. They envisioned a franchise in which their sons and several of their friends could break into the world of adult amateur baseball without picking up splinters for several years.

They accomplished that -- and more. The new age Fleetwings finished second behind the ICC Pirates in what was then the East- Central Division. They made it into the playoffs as the No. 4 seed in their maiden voyage before bowing to the Limeport Bulls in three games.

The league, now consisting of 13 teams, scrapped its three- division format for the 2000 season. The Fleetwings' Kiddie Korps is showing that it learned its baseball lessons well. As of Monday, the kids were sitting atop the standings at 13-2, percentage points ahead of defending champion Gabelsville (14-3) and a half game in front of Limeport (12-2).

While they lag by about a week, league stats illustrate that the kids have taken care of the offense. Every member of the starting lineup, which features players still short of their 20th birthday, was hitting over .300 -- and the team was batting a lusty .362.

Dieruff High graduate Matt Marcks led the pack at .455, with three home runs and 15 RBIs. True, Matt Hlay, who'll never see 20 again, was next in line at .448, but Justin Godusky (.381), Paul Santay (.375), Jeremy Arner (.366), Teague Fatzinger (.313), Casey Paras (.310), Brendan Witkowski (.308) and Scott Garger (.300, two homers, 11 RBIs) still only have to shave twice a week.

But, as Yogi Berra might have said, `Fifty percent of baseball is 90 percent pitching.` And that's where the Fleetwings' greybeards have come in.

On a staff with a combined 2.38 ERA, three ageless wonders -- Dennis Kinney, Bruce Alpaugh and Ray Ganser -- are the leaders.

Kinney, a major leaguer 18 years ago, was 4-0 with one save and a 2.37 ERA. Alpaugh was 2-0, 2.19. Ganser, pitching strictly in relief, had thrown five scoreless innings.

Alpaugh's second win was the 70th of his TCL career.

Oh, yes Josh Gunkle was 1-1 (he's since beaten Gabelsville) with a 3.28 ERA. But, while he's a generation behind that other trio, he's been in the TCL for about eight years, so he's got to be considered a veteran, too.

Only Jim Messick, who was 2-0 with a microscopic 0.78 ERA, owns Kiddie Korps membership.

An aside: Ganser picked up a win for the Blue Mountain League Bethleon Blue Jays a couple of weeks ago. It was his first BML start - - and win -- since 1987.

Look for the TCL race to be a three-team sprint to the wire between the Fleetwings and 1999 finalists Gabelsville and Limeport.

Shawn Betz has been a two-way star for the Owls. According to the latest stats, Betz, who was 2-1, 2.33 ERA on the mound, was hitting a lusty .513 with 15 RBIs.

He was getting plenty of offensive support; the team was hitting .369. Ed Reilly (.481), Matt Danner (.457), Rodney Miller (.429, 11 RBIs) and another ageless wonder, Bob Graber (.419), had a lot to do with that.

Even though Limeport was batting .367 as a team, the Bulls' big story was pitching. Five pitchers (Chad Arnold, Randy Baer, Clay Fitch, Chris Parsell and Pat Toner) were all 2-0.

Steve Unger, Joe Pochron and Pete Remaly were all hitting .500. But Unger was the prime crusher. He had six home runs and 21 RBIs.

Lefty Scott Stewart was 4-0 on the mound for ICC (12-5), while Josh Mohlmann (.550, 11 RBIs) and Corey Schneck (.517, 10 RBIs) were leading a potent attack.

The Pirates did lose a pitcher. Pottsville native and Mansfield University grad Sean Holden was signed by the Lehigh Valley Black Diamonds of the independent Atlantic League.

Holden was 0-1 in two 2000 starts. He reported to the Black Diamonds last Friday but, as of Monday, had not appeared in a game.

Northern Yankees' lefty Jason Young also picked up a milestone win, his 50th.



No one should be surprised that Martins Creek (14-4) leads the BML or that Banko's (13-4) is just a half game behind. Each has been a title contender for most of the last decade.

Not surprising, either, is that Lower Nazareth (10-4) is third, just two games back. Last year, skipper Paul Engelhardt turned the Phillies from perennial doormats to a team to be reckoned with. He continued the upgrade this year by luring slugger P.J. Yoder and pitcher Chris Bensing away from 1999 runner-up Northampton and adding Muhlenberg three-sport star Joshua Carter to an already-talented cast.

Not shocking, either, is Northampton's precipitous fall to the basement. The Giants (2-16) watched Yoder and Bensing go to Lower Nazareth, Mike Reenock to Martins Creek and Hall-of-Famer Ted Long into his second (last?) retirement.

Bethleon is is on the upswing. After an out-of-the-running 16-24 performance in 1999, second-year manager Tim Schwarz lured Sean Leary and Rich Gaugler back into the fold. He also added veteran slugger Dave Toth and pitchers Dan Dillon (from Penn State's NCAA Tournament team) and Joe Kendy.

Presto! The Jays are 10-7 -- and in fourth place.

Tough break: Martins Creek will have to make its title run without veteran outfielder Rich Fenstermaker, who tore an anterior cruciate ligament.

Tough spell: Our apologies to star Banko's pitcher Chris Karabinus. First, when he picked up a win in relief over Martins Creek last Tuesday, I spelled his name `Karubinas` throughout my game story.

When he came back the very next day to go the distance and beat Catty 6-2, his first name was changed incorrectly to `Andy` in the game report.

We'll get it right the rest of the year, Chris.


From The Morning Call -- June 28, 2000

Copyright 2000, The Morning Call