Josh Savokinas returns to the Pittston Area lineup and will play shortstop for the Patriots in his senior season.
Every spring when the Pittston Area baseball team breaks out the equipment to begin a new season, they do so with one thing in mind – winning Wyoming Valley Conference and District 2 titles.
This season is no different.
The Patriots return 10 players with varsity experience, including seniors Josh Savokinas, Ron Musto, RJ Emmett, Jordan Bone and James Castellino.
“We aim to win a championship every year, and that’s what we work for,” said 12-year veteran PA skipper Paul Zaffuto. “That has been our team motto from the day I started coaching. We play to learn, grow, and win.
“We have experienced players back who understand and believe in our system. They set an example for our younger kids on a daily basis. One of the things I believe is if your best player isn’t your hardest working player then your team won’t succeed. This year I am very confident we have all the tools in place for success.”
The Pittston Area experience begins with Savokinas who moved from third base to shortstop late last season, and will anchor the infield from that spot this year. Savokinas batted .314 with 12 RBI, 11 runs scored and six extra-base hits last season for the Patriots. Zaffuto believes he will be the WVC’s top shortstop this season.
Another player Zaffuto believe will be at the top of his position is catcher Ron Musto.
Musto batted close to .400 during the first half of his junior season and finished with 11 RBI. The Patriots will need another hot start from Musto to help avoid the slow start it had to the 2010 season. Pittston Area won 7 of its last 10 to finish 9-8 last season.
Behind the plate, Musto will be in control of a pitching staff that will include Bone and Castellino. Bone pitched 31 innings last season for the Patriots and appeared in 10 games. Castellino appeared in seven games and pitched 14 innings. Zaffuto is expecting big things from the duo – especially Castellino.
“(James) whole pitching demeanor has changed,” said Zaffuto. “His off-season efforts has added a ‘swagger’ to his game.”
The Patriots strength continues up the middle of the field with returning second baseman RJ Emmett. Emmett ended the season on a 6-for-14 tear, drove in a team-high 16 runs on the season. But it’s in the field where Zaffuto says Emmett will, “open many eyes defensively.”
Adding to Pittston Area’s experience are senior centerfielder Matt Antal, junior third baseman Anthony Schwab, junior first baseman Chuck Bressler, junior utility man Brian Delaney, and junior pitcher Brandon Pernot.
Antal played in every game as a junior, and Schwab played in 11 games as a sophomore. Bressler started five games to start the season because of an injury, and Delaney was 3-for-4 as a pinch hitter. Pernot threw four innings last season and appeared in two games.
Three newcomers Zaffuto expects to contribute are junior left fielder AJ Mancini who is on track to start in the outfielder; junior right fielder Even Hahn and senior pitcher Kyle Callahan.
“Hahn is considered to be the team’s ‘dude’,” said Zaffuto. “Callahan is a first-year senior and looks to be ready to make major contributions on the mound.”
Zaffuto predicts Tunkhannock to be the favorite in both the WVC and the District 2 Class 3A race. But he is not selling his own team short.
“Tunkhannock is the overwhelming favorite to win the division,” said Zaffuto. “They have two Division I pitches who throw in the low nineties, and a lot of returning talent from last year’s district championship team.
“We have a lot of young talent being groomed by returning players and a dedicated and expert coaching staff. We feel we can compete with everyone as long as we practice intensely and execute on game days. We should be ready for years to come.”