Gaining pitching depth was a top priority for Bruisers Baseball American Legion Cowle Post 151 coach Joe Zappitelli and his staff heading into the 2019 season.
The Bruisers, a U18 team, combined forces with Willoughby and the extra arms between Ashtabula and Lake County have been already noticed.
“We’ve been able to pick up seven pitcher-only players and that’s been a huge plus,” Zappitelli said.
The Bruisers have pitcher-centerfielder Logan Newell and third baseman-shortstop Nick Reichek of Grand Valley; pitcher-centerfielder Nick Stoltz and pitcher-leftfielder Tyler Cerjan of Geneva and second baseman-shortstop Jacob Zappitelli and pitcher Frankie Olivarez of Edgewood from Ashtabula County on the roster.
Newell and Reichek are planning on attending and playing for Cuyahoga Community College next season, while Stoltz is headed to Baldwin Wallace for academics and baseball.
In the 2019 high school season, Newell went 4-2 with a 1.93 ERA and 67 strikeouts. Newell and Reichek were key players in the Mustangs’ postseason runs over the past two season, including to the Division III regional final in 2018.
Stoltz compiled a 6-1 mark with a 1.36 ERA and 62 strikeouts during the spring.
Cerjan and Olivarez each have collegiate pitching experience at Lakeland Community College and Tiffin University, respectively.
And Zappitelli batted .435 with 25 stolen bases, 21 runs and 17 RBIs as the Warriors reached the Division III regional semifinal this season.
“Logan, Nick, Jacob and Nick have been together since they were 12,” Zappitelli said. “They’re the core players that provide stability. They’re all multi-sport athletes. And in Tyler and Frankie, we wanted pitchers with college experience.”
Stoltz is excited to play with his core group while adding an influx of talent to the team.
“We should be something special by the end of summer,” he said.
The rest of the team includes pitcher-first baseman Ian Barnes, shortstop-second baseman Jackson Homage, catcher-first baseman Zachary Houghtaling, centerfielder-leftfielder Benjamin Salesky, pitcher-third baseman Justin Simons and catcher-third baseman John Susnik all of Willoughby South; shortstop-catcher Ryan Boruszkowski and pitchers Tom Yuras and Matt Nicklas of Lake Catholic; pitcher-first baseman Kevin Spehar of Mayfield; pitcher Sam Michalski of Eastlake North; pitcher Josh Platt of Mentor and pitcher-first baseman Kyle Trickett of Villa Angela-St. Joseph.
Zappitelli said the big issue early on has been communication errors.
“As a coach, the only way to get better is to play,” he said.
But the Bruisers are also 4-0 on the young season. In one of the earlier games, they trailed by five runs after three innings, but rallied to win.
“It was nice to see the confidence in coming back,” Zappitelli said.
The Bruisers are also fielding a U16 team coached by Greg Myers.
Cowle Post 151 will once again travel for the majority of their tournaments.
One of the highlights is the Beast of the East Tournament in West Virginia July 4-7.
But this year, the Bruisers will host a tournament, scheduled June 28-30 in Jefferson.
“We’ve always wanted to host a nice legion tournament,” Zappitelli said. “Cowle Post 151 will be recognized. We’ll play by senior and junior legion rules. It will be great to have that experience before district. It will be great to have something in our own backyard.”
Teams scheduled to participate in the senior legion tournament are Post 151, Edinboro (Pa.) 489, Sandusky 83, Meadville (Pa.) 111, Millcreek (Pa.) 773 and Wayne County Post 68.
Games are scheduled from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Cotton and Kidder Fields in Jefferson June 28 and 29. The championship contest is slated for 4 p.m. June 30.
In the junior legion tournament, teams scheduled to participate include Cowle Post 151, Millcreek (Pa.) Post 773, Circleville Post 134, Chillicothe 757 and Sandusky Post 83. Games are slated to run from 9:30 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. June 28 and 29. On June 30, the championship contest is at 4 p.m.
The plan is to have the color guard start the tournament on June 28.
“We want to invite the legion posts to watch quality baseball,” Zappitelli said. “Jim Richards helped with the schedule.”
Jon Stoltz, Richards and Doug Haines are coaching, along with Rick Boruszkowski and Mike Susnik.
Jim Tupa is a
coach and legion representative.
The legion district tournament is scheduled from July 19-22. The winner advances to the double-elimination state tournament in Lancaster July 30-Aug. 4.
The state winner qualifies for the regional tournament Aug. 5-11 in Charleston, Illinois and the regional winner advances to the national World Series in Shelby, North Carolina Aug. 15-20 on ESPN.