Back for his third season with the Warriors, coach Bill Lipps (2013 Star Beacon Ashtabula County co-Coach of the Year) has a team loaded with senior talent reminiscent of the 2012 team that won 15 games in his first season.
All told, Lipps returns 12 lettermen from last year’s squad, including eight juniors.
Still, Lipps said it won’t necessarily be easy for the Warriors to replace the two seniors they lost from last year’s Division II sectional title team.
“We have to replace two great players in Alex Vencill (37 IP, 1.89 ERA) and Louie Wisnyai (.442, 29 RBI),” he said. “To replace guys of that caliber, our role players from a year ago need to become big contributors.”
The biggest question mark for Edgewood, like many teams, will be its pitching staff.
With the loss of Vencill, the only two pitchers who saw significant varsity time last year were seniors Anthonie Magda (P-OF) and Joey Zappitelli (P-OF).
“After Tony Magda and Joey Zappitelli, our pitching staff is a question mark,” Lipps said. “We have a group of five or six pitchers who had small roles in 2013. They need to step into the spotlight this spring. The month of March will determine who separates themselves from the rest of the pack.”
Also from the senior class that returns as lettermen are third baseman Andrew Graeb, catcher Erik Hodges, Nick Johnson (C-1B), Alex Kisha (P-OF), second baseman Connor McLaughlin and Steven Perkio (1B-P-OF).
Also back are juniors Alex Newson (OF-INF), pitcher Dan Joslin and sophomores Al Graeb (3B-DH-P) and starting shortstop Matt DiDonato.
While pitching is a concern, Lipps also wants to see his team find a little more pop at the plate.
“Offensively, we return some very good hitters but we lacked something in 2013,” he said. “Comparing the numbers in 2012, 32 percent of our hits went for extra bases. In 2013, only 18 percent did. It’s easier to score from second base than it is from first.”
For the first time since it was in the NEC, Edgewood will have a chance to compete for a conference title as they join the All-American Conference.
“The All-American Conference is a great baseball conference,” he said. “We are excited to compete against some great baseball programs.”
Edgewood played several of the teams it will be contending with for a title last season, including Jefferson Niles and Lakeview.
“Poland, Struthers, Jefferson, Niles and Lakeview are schools who win a lot of baseball game,” Lipps said. “I’m confident that our core players — Graeb, DiDonato, McLaughlin, Zappitelli, Magda, Perkio and Johnson — can play against anyone.
“How soon our role players get to the AAC level will go a long way in deciding the success we have within the conference.”