Baseball preview: Local teams return strong lineups, talented hitters to the dugout

Mar. 28—Spring is here. With it comes 70 degree days mixed with 40 degrees and a pouring rain for days at a time. Add in a dash of snow and that means it's baseball season in northwest Pennsylvania.

All six baseball programs in Crawford County this year return after a postseason appearance in 2023. Two teams feature new leaders in the dugout, but strong rosters and returning all-region players should allow all six teams to see success.

All in all, the county returns 10 all-region selections from a year ago.


Meadville head coach Tony Tartaglione is entering his fourth year and the team has had an upward trajectory each year.

In 2021, the team finished 7-11 with a first-round playoff exit. The 'Dogs finished 2022 11-9, won a playoff game and lost to eventual district champ Cathedral Prep in the District 10 Class 4A semifinals. Last season, Meadville played with Prep for 5 1/2 innings in the D-10 title game, but lost 9-2.

Gone from last year's squad that finished 15-7 are several starters and key players including Brady Walker, Mason Walker, Gavin Beck, Owen Garvey, Jordan Young and Andre Jefferson. The Walker twins combined to go 12-2 on the mound.

"We did graduate a lot of impact players, but with that being said we're returning a lot of impact players. Some of my freshmen and sophomores are stepping up. We had two scrimmages and I was pleasantly surprised with the younger kids," Tartaglione said. "Then our senior core, the returning players with a couple juniors, I think we're right where we need to be.

"Hitting wise, we have to do a little more than what I've seen. But defensively and pitching, I think we're right there again."

Returning is sophomore pitcher AJ Feleppa. Feleppa pitched 31 innings as a freshman and fanned 42 batters. Rocco Tartaglione saw limited time on the mound, but posted 13 strikeouts and gave up 11 earned runs.

"We threw AJ to the wolves last year and he pitched really well. We'll lean on him and Rocco. Rocco is throwing hardest right now and is locating pitches. The thing is, we don't wanna take him out of the middle infield, but he and AJ will log a lot of innings on the mound for us," Tartaglione said. "Ryan Reichel, a senior, he will get his chance on the mound this year. He is gonna have to step up. He's been pitching a long time for me, since all stars when the kids were 11 and 12."

Sophomore lefty Rocco Woodrow could also see some time on the mound.

At the plate, senior shortstop Rocco Tartaglione returns after leading the Bulldogs with 24 hits last season.

He added three homers, three triples and had a .343 average. He and center fielder Brighton Anderson, were both second-team all-region selections.

Anderson tallied 19 hits, 18 runs and seven RBIs. Feleppa and fellow sophomore Jacoby Thompson had a .250 average. Anderson and Thompson will man the outfield. Bradyn Miller will start at catcher and freshman brother Ian Miller will start at second base. Cam Arpin, a senior, will start at first base.

Meadville plays in Region 5 with McDowell, Erie, Cathedral Prep, Corry, Warren, General McLane and Fort LeBoeuf. The Bulldogs opened the season on Monday against Conneaut and won 10-5. The 'Dogs will play non-region games against Sharon, North East and Mercyhurst Prep.


The Conneaut Eagles are entering year two under head coach Adam Bronson and the team is eying postseason success.

Last season, Conneaut finished 10-8 and made the postseason as the No. 4 seed in the Class 3A bracket. The Eagles lost to Mercyhurst Prep in extra innings, but it was a step forward.

Conneaut's 2022 season was canceled shortly after its spring break trip. Before that, the Eagles hadn't finished with a winning record since 2016. Bronson is pleased with the direction of the program, but still wants more.

"We're very pleased and proud of the direction that the program is heading in. However, we need to cultivate more of an offensive prowess at the plate. Last year, we only had two players hit over .300," Bronson said. "That level of production is not sustainable when the end goal is hosting a trophy."

Gone from last year's team is first-team all-region pitcher and co-pitcher of the year, Dawson Thomas, now playing for Allegheny College. Returning from the second-team all-region team is shortstop Gavin White.

The No. 1 on the mound is expected to be senior Wyatt Kornman, who was 5-3 with a 3.14 ERA last year. He struck out 40 batters in about 42 innings. White and sophomore Alex Wilpula will also see time on the mound.

"Wyatt will be our workhorse and No. 1 arm this season. Gavin and Alex will be our other plus-velocity arm, alternating between starting and long relief appearances," Bronson said. "Wyatt, Gavin and Alex will essentially serve as our 1-A, 1-B and 1-C pitchers, respectively. Offensively, the heart of our order will consist of Gavin, Greg (Klink), Ashton Headley and Alex."

White led the team with 28 hits with Headley and Klink adding 17 and 12, respectively. White also led the team in batting average (.500), RBIs (17) and doubles (7).

Underclassmen Bronson expects to contribute are sophomore Lucas Aldrich, freshman Caiden Loucks, sophomore Chase Stewart and sophomore Logan Nottingham.

"Lucas has impressed the coaching staff this preseason and we'll lean on him to lock down third base and solidify the top of our order. Caiden will be a key player in the OF and provide much needed speed on the base paths," Bronson said. "Chase will be a key, reliable defensive presence at 1B and Logan will likely serve as our DH and provide an offensive spark."

Conneaut opened the season with a non-region loss to Meadville at home Monday. The Eagles will compete in Region 2 with Oil City, Titusville, Franklin, Hickory, Sharon, Grove City and Slippery Rock.

"We're hungry for a postseason 'W', but we're starving for a championship," Bronson said. "That's our mindset this year and will continue to be our mindset every year."


Saegertown graduated all-region standout Henry Shaffer from last season's state playoff team, but the Panthers return a bevy of talent and are poised for another run at a D-10 crown.

Last year, Saegertown fell in the D-10 finals, but upset the WPIAL champion in the opening round of the state playoffs. They then lost to eventual state champion Clarion.

"The state playoffs are an awesome experience for any team. But the last two years we have lost to the team who won the state title, DuBois Central Catholic in '22 and Clarion last year. I think that sets the bar to what we need to do to really compete at the state level," Saegertown head coach Nick Leslie said. "A lot of our team is made up of guys who played in or were apart of both those games. The leadership and how we have been preparing this year is reflected by that."

On the mound, Leslie will have a stable of pitchers. Wyatt Burchill was 3-1 as a starter last season with 27 strikeouts and 22 earned runs. Also expected to pitch are William Shaffer and DeMarcus Manning.

"I think Wyatt Burchill took a major step forward last year," Leslie said. "We're going to lean on him this year to help anchor our lineup and log innings on the mound. Half our roster can pitch, so we were are going to have seven guys getting innings this year."

At the plate, Burchill is the top returning hitter with 31 hits. Manning and Luke Young added 22 and 20 hits, respectively.

"The lineup will probably change quite a bit over the course the season. We have a lot of competition this year for starting roles. Our seniors Torre Mosbacher, Jon Grundy and Connor Shaw are working hard everyday and are in the mix," Leslie said. "I think guys like Gabe Jordan, Reese Wilkinson, Garrett Crawford and Everett Gardner will contribute.

"Pair that up with three freshman, who have a very high baseball aptitude, and playing time is going to be tough."

Saegertown opened the season with a spring trip. The team's region schedule began on Monday at home against Union City, which the Panthers won in a mercy rule.

The Panthers have played in the last two D-10 title games. Are they aiming to get back there?

"We never set expectations," Leslie said. "We are only looking to get 1 percent better every time we are together."

Cambridge Springs

The Cambridge Springs will feature a new leader in the dugout, but it's a familiar face.

Eugene Pabon was an assistant baseball coach last season, has been an assistant coach for the boys basketball team for five seasons and have been involved in Cambridge sports for more than a decade.

"I'm a 2004 graduate of Cambridge Springs High School and I've dedicated my time coaching from the youth to varsity level over the past 12 years," Pabon said. "Many of these seniors are among my first group when I started coaching and I couldn't picture not taking this role to coach them as they finish out their high school sports career."

The Blue Devils graduated a couple all-region standouts, but return eight seniors. Leading the charge is returning all-region catcher Tristen Mazzadra and all-region second baseman Preston Gorton.

"Tristen and Preston are well deserved of their all-region selections last season and will be great leaders to their teammates," Pabon said. "They are respected on the field by their teammates and will play their roles at a high level. There are many other competitors on our team which will help lead to our success as well."

Pabon expects the pitching staff to be led by sophomore Brett Kania. As a freshman, Kania was 6-1 with a 1.99 ERA. He had 47 strikeouts with 11 earned runs.

Also expected to see time are Mazzadra, Owen Riley, Alex Doubet, Trent Dailey and Matthew Ross. Mazzadra and Riley struck out 30 and 21 batters last season, respectively.

"Brett had much success last season and expect the same to continue this season. We are excited to see what first year freshman Matthew Ross can bring to this talented group. Matthew's knowledge of the game and experience through travel ball puts him in a great position to make a contribution this season," Pabon said. "He has established a presence with our experienced group and expect him to have a great season."

Offensively, Kania is the top returner with a .362 average. Mazzadra and Gorton each boasted a .353 and .345 average, respectively. Kania had 21 hits with 11 RBIs while Gorton had 19 hits with nine RBIs.

Cambridge competes with Saegertown, Cochranton, Maplewood, Iroquois, Union City, Rocky Grove and Youngsville in Region 3.

What are the goals for year one of the Pabon era? According to him, all of the players are on the same page.

"Success follows success and many of our players have been a part of the success of being District 10 football champions, Region 3 champs/district runner up in basketball this school year. The first day of practice I had each player write down three personal goals and three team goals," Pabon said. "The similarity in goals were region champs, district champs, state champs. I commend their aspirational goals."


The Cochranton Cardinals will have a new general in the dugout this spring. Jarod Morrison, whose been with the program as an assistant coach for three years, will replace Scott Barzak. Morrison, who was a punter for the Gannon football team and a pitcher for the baseball team, has coached both teams at Cochranton as an assistant.

"The overall goals and expectations for the team this year are to work hard each day and try to be the best players we possibly can be. I expect us to compete and get better as the season progresses," Morrison said. "As a team we want to be aggressive at the plate, on the bases and attack the strike zone on the mound. I want our players to compete, play with an edge and play the game the right way. Like any team sport, you want your team to play together and start clicking at the right time of the year."

Last season, Cochranton finished 9-13. The Cardinals had a District 10 quarterfinal win against Cambridge Springs before falling to Saegertown in the semifinals. Instrumental in the Cards' success was Walker Carroll.

Carroll, now a sophomore, delivered 102 strikeouts as a freshman with 20 earned runs. At bat, he led the team in batting average in .524, hits (33), runs (23), doubles (10) and triples (2).

"Walker is a great competitor and I expect him to take another step forward and build upon the success that he had last season. Walker has high expectations for himself and understands the skills he still needs to develop. He is a tremendous athlete, and as a sophomore I think he has the potential to be a special player," Morrison said. "It will be a collective team effort on the mound, but Walker will certainly be a big part of it. It is still early in the season, and I expect a variety of guys such as Andrew Albert, Brayden Burnette, Isaiah Long, Tim Deeter and Ben Field to step up this season and throw some innings for us."

Last season, Albert tossed 31 strikeouts in 26 innings. Burnette added 10 strikeouts.

At bat, Ben Field and Blake Foulk had a .452 and a .434 batting average, respectively.

"Again, the season is just beginning, and our coaching staff constantly evaluates our players on a daily basis. Offensively, we have some experienced guys returning such as Walker, Blake Foulk, Isaiah Long, Brayden Burnette, Ben Field and Trent Hoban who have been contributors for us in the past," Morrison said. "I expect those guys to lead the way offensively for us. Our younger players are developing and beginning to hit their stride as we get ready for the season. We are striving for consistency at the plate this year and it is going to be a group effort for us to be successful."

Cochranton has non-region games against Lakeview, Conneaut, West Middlesex and Shenango. The Cardinals finished 8-8 in region action last year competing with Saegertown, Youngsville, Cambridge Springs, Maplewood, Iroquois, Union City, Rocky Grove and Eisenhower.

"We have a relatively young team this year. We have a majority of underclassmen on the roster. Blake and Isaiah are our only seniors, so young players are going to be major contributors for us this season," Morrison said. "I believe we have a freshman this year in Colten Mattocks that has the opportunity to earn a starting spot in the lineup right away. I believe every player on our roster is going to contribute for our team this season. We are working hard as a team and are focusing on getting better each day."


Maplewood is coming off back-to-back 9-9 seasons with a first-round playoff exit last year. What needs to happen to take a step forward this season? According to Maplewood head coach Ken Smock, they need to put it all together.

"What needs to happen is what we've been telling this squad the past two years. They need to work together as a total unit with pitching, offense and defense all at the same time," Smock said. "We've been seeing improvement in the first few weeks. The team this year, with what they went through the last two years, they're feeling more confident in themselves. I'm hoping for some much better things this year."

The Tigers featured a young lineup last year. The top six batting averages are returning this year, including Andrew Proper, who led the team with 24 hits. Sophomore Elijah Hochstetler had two home runs last season and a .360 average.

On the mound, two juniors in Landyn Reynolds and Levi Willison return. They contributed 35 and 30 strikeouts last year, respectively.

"Those two have been pitching well for several years," Smock said. "Between Levi and Landyn I expect some big things. AJ Proper has been coming on well pitching as well as Elijah Hochstetler."

Two freshman that will see time on the mound are Kyle Jordan and Chase Koelle. They could also contribute offensively for the Tigers.

The team is fresh off a trip to North Carolina to get some games in. Unfortunately, Hochstetler suffered a hip flexor injury and is expected to be sidelined four to six weeks, according to Smock.

"We've been hovering around .500 for a couple years so hopefully they break the glass this year and break through," Smock said.

Maplewood competes in Region 3 with Saegertown, Cochranton, Cambridge Springs, Iroquois, Union City, Rocky Grove and Youngsville, but the Tigers are in Class 2A.

The Tigers home-opener was Monday against Rocky Grove, which the Tigers won.

Alex Topor can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at