Pittston Area baseball coach Paul Zaffuto expects to have what might be his most potent offense in a decade as well as a solid defensive unit.
The Patriots’ fate could come down to their pitching depth.
“We have to make them hit, because I know we can make the plays,” the coach, now in his 19th year, said. “And, as far as our lineup goes, I know we’re going to be able to hit the upper-echelon pitching and we’re going to be able to score enough runs.
“I just hope we’re going to be able to throw enough strikes to keep the other teams in check.”
The Patriots finished a game out of first place in the Wyoming Valley Conference Division 1 standings last year when Crestwood went 8-5 and the other four teams went 7-6. They won a quarterfinal District 2 Class 5A playoff game before falling to eventual champion Wallenpaupack in the semifinals.
Pittston Area returns about half the team from a year ago, but some of those players could be on the move in what figures to be a flexible lineup.
Senior Dylan Spurlin and junior Joe Stella both have previous experience at catcher, but spent most of their time last season elsewhere. One or both will be behind the plate, but Spurlin could be back in the outfield and Stella could also be at first base, third base or in the outfield.
Stella and John DeLucca, a junior who could go from designated hitter a year ago to first base, are two of the top returning hitters.
Senior Kevin Krawczyk moves from second base to shortstop, but the middle infield will be without Joe Cencetti, a late-season starter a year ago as a freshman, because of recent knee surgery. Cencetti is likely to return at some point in the season.
Third base is one of the positions where Zaffuto says he has “a lot of different options.”
Junior Riley Brody and sophomore Cole Cherkas could be there.
Senior Kyle Ralston returns to start in the outfield, where Dom Stella, another senior, could take over in center field.
Alex McAndrew, who was an outfield starter before sitting out last year following knee surgery, is back.
Junior Jimmie Dillon had six hits in the team’s three non-league games so far, all of which were played on the new artificial turf infield that was installed last fall giving Pittston Area a playable field before other schools. That performance has Dillon in the mix for a starting outfield spot to begin the season.
Sophomore speedster Brandon Constantino could also be in the outfield.
Senior John Bone and sophomore Andrew Krawczyk are also in the mix in the outfield where additional players are needed because the pitching staff also comes largely from that group.
Kyle Ralston and junior Hunter Ralston will handle the top two starting spots on the mound. Senior Zach Mascelli is positioned to be the main reliever.
The fourth and fifth pitching spots remain unsettled.
McAndrew, from two years ago, and Dom Stella have some experience there.
The Patriots are scheduled to open the WVC schedule Tuesday at Crestwood, then play at home Thursday against Wyoming Valley West.
Reach the Sunday Dispatch newsroom at 570-655-1418 or by email at email@example.com.