Old Forge senior baseball players, from left to right, first row, Michael Long, Gary Puckett and Mario Martinelli; second row, Russ McGlynn, Tony Goodall, Dom Avvisato, Tim McGrath and Connor Fultz.photo by rick notari
The Old Forge baseball team will play for their second coach in three years, but that may be the only thing to change on the diamond for the Blue Devils this season.
Tony DiMattia takes over the helm at his alma mater this season and expects that the four-time defending District 2 Class 1A champs won’t miss a beat.
“I expect this team to continue the tradition of excellence that has come to be the standard at Old Forge High School,” said DiMattia who captained the 1992 PIAA Class 2A State Champion Blue Devils. “Our team goals are to compete for our league and district titles.”
Making those goals - and the transition from one coach to another – easier for the Blue Devils will be the return of seven starters from last season’s 12-win team, including ace Tony Goodall.
Goodall was 7-0 in 10 appearances last season for Old Forge pitched his best game of the season in the D2 final when he no-hit Lackawanna Trail in a 1-0 victory. The senior struck out 40 in 49 innings of action while walking just 19.
Four underclassmen will battle for the No. 2 spot in the rotation while also providing depth to the Blue Devils pitching staff. Junior lefty Ian Nemetz, and sophomore lefty Dave Chromey are the leading candidates with sophomores Tyler Cavalari and Derek Drasba both fighting for innings.
Chromey pitched in five games for the Blue Devils last season, compiling a 2-2 record, and Nemetz pitched in three games and was 0-1 in just one decision. Drasba also saw action in two games as a freshman while Cavalari pitched for the junior varsity team in 2010.
Three full-time starters return in the infield – along with senior catcher Gary Puckett who split time behind the dish last season – to anchor the Old Forge defense.
Puckett was behind the plate for eight of the Blue Devils 12 wins as a junior and will provide the young pitching staff with an experienced backstop to lean on. Despite Puckett’s presence, DiMattia has four other catchers listed on the roster – including freshman Steve Mascaro.
Senior Connor Fultz returns at shortstop for his third season. Fultz batted .306 with 10 RBI and 14 runs scored and walked six times while pounding out five extra-base hits. Mario Martinelli also returns to the middle of the infield at second base. The senior batted .294 and drew a team-high 16 walks. He also scored 12 runs, stole seven bases and drove in six runs.
Dom Avvisato is also back for his third season at first base. The senior did not hit for average last season but did drive in 12 runs while scoring 13. Senior Russ McGlynn will play opposite Avvisato at the hot corner. As a designated hitter last season, McGlynn batted .361 with seven RBI.
Junior Anthony Trotta will back up Avvisato at first, and Goodall, Cavalari, and sophomore Mike Vieira will provide solid depth at the other three infield spots.
Michael Long will anchor the outfield from his centerfield spot. Long, a senior three-year starter, batted .324 and drove in 17 runs as a junior. He will be flanked by juniors Dave Argust in right field and Chris Talipski in left. Argust, who can also play third, returns to right after batting .346 with nine walks, 11 RBI and 12 runs scored as a sophomore. Talipski will be starting for the first time after serving as a pinch-runner last season. As a sophomore, Talipski scored 11 runs and stole four bases. Chromey, Nemetz and Drasba will provide depth for the Old Forge outfield.
“We have a lot of players with varsity experience who are extremely hard working and know what it takes to win,” said DiMattia. “I really like the chemistry and makeup of this team. They have a really good baseball I.Q.”