Deep pitching staff, proven hitters should lead Indians to district playoffs
By Mike McGann, Editor, UnionvilleTimes.com
It might sound strange, but it’s possible that the graduation of Andy Kirkland, who set a Unionville High School record for home runs in a season in 2010, could actually mean the Indians have a better offense in 2011.
Huh? Lose a player who hit 13 homers and drove in 50 runs and the offense improves? Okay, let, second-year head coach T.J. Ostrisko explain:
“I think we kind of sat back and waited to see what Andy would do,” Ostrisko said. And while that was often explosive, waiting for the next bomb tended to hinder the sort of consistent offense Ostrisko said he wants to see — and that along with a pile of injuries may have been enough to edge the Indians out of a District 1 playoff berth, at 12-8, Unionville narrowly missed the postseason in 2010.
And while Kirkland has taken his potent bat to UNC-Asheville, Ostrisko said he thinks the remaining bats and deep pitching staff should be more than enough to propel this Indians’ squad into the playoffs and beyond. Unionville kicks off its 2011 season, Saturday morning hosting arch-rival Garnet Valley.
“I think if we can stay healthy, I don’t see why we can’t make districts and go deep into them,” Ostrinko said of his squad, which features nine seniors and juniors, all with some varsity experience.
Despite the loss of Kirkland, Pat Loughran, Darren Griffin and Connor O’Malley, the Indians bring back both depth and experience — and along with what should be a potent offense, they may feature one of the area’s top pitching staffs.
Both will start with senior Connor Wing, who is expected to hit cleanup and lead the pitching staff. Wing, who has already signed to play for Kutztown University, was all Ches-Mont American Division in 2010 and should be one of the top players in Chester County in 2011. He’ll be joined by Tyler Fries, the lanky basketball star, who was a powerhouse out of the bullpen in 2010. Fries, who has signed to attend Wilmington University next season, will become the Indians no. 2 starter, although Ostrisko describes Wing and Fries as “No 1 and No. 1A.”
Seniors Matt Christopher and Chris Fulton — two guys Ostrisko says he thinks would be solid no. 2 starters in most of the programs in the area — will round out the rest of the starting staff. Junior Ryan Koehler looks to have the inside line on closing.
“This could really be the strength of our team,” Ostrisko said. “It’s a lot of depth, I think a lot of other teams would love to have to have this many arms.”
While Wing will get a lot of attention as the no. 1 starter and cleanup hitter, Ryan Hissey may end up getting the most. Moving from third base to his natural catching position, Hissey may end up being the best hitter on the team, although he may get an argument as whether he’s the best hitter in his family. Big brother David was a 50th round pick of the Phillies, while another brother Peter, was a fourth-round pick of the Boston Red Sox and is battling in spring training to make the AA Portland Sea Dogs.
“He handles the pitching staff really well,” Ostrinko said. The younger Hissey is already a potent hitter, more of a power threat than Peter, who is a rangy, contact hitter in the pros. Already, major Division I schools are looking at him for scholarships and pro scouts are following him.
“The scary thing is that he’s only a junior,” Ostrinko said. The pair of Hissey and Wing should form a potent 3-4 combo in the lineup.
The place setters look to be Eric Aruffo, the everyday centerfielder hitting leadoff and Drew Deihl, who Ostrisko says will play “everywhere” hitting in the two hole. David Kurey, a senior, will be back to man the middle infield, splitting time between second base and short, depending on who is pitching. Junior Andrew Welsh should be part of the outfield mix.
One thing Ostrisko hopes won’t be part of the mix are injuries that hampered 2010. After getting a bit of a late start in his first season coaching last year, Ostrisko was able to put in a new off-season conditioning program.
“We’ve added a core strengthening program,” he said. “The guys have really bought into it and worked hard. They’re saying that they’re in the best shape they’ve ever been in.”