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Inexperience will be a challenge for Fitch baseball team

March 20, 2019
Nik Zirounis , The Town Crier

Fitch's baseball team begins All American Conference play when it plays a pair with Ashtabula Lakeside on March 25 and 26.

Following the double dip with the Dragons, Fitch must play back-to-back games with rival Boardman staring on April 1. At that time, the Falcons hope they prove they are not fooling around in the AAC. Fitch finished 2018 in a three-way tie with the Spartans and Canfield for the Red Tier title. If the 2019 championship crown is to fit solely on the Falcons' heads, they must make up for the departure of 14 seniors who graduated last summer. Doing that will be a difficult task according to head coach Joe Paris.

"We're a really young team," explained the coach, who is entering his third year at the helm. "We lost a lot and we only have a few kids with any varsity experience."

The one Falcon who is engulfed in experience is starting pitcher Kenny Misik. The multiple time senior letter winner is a left-handed ace who pitched the Falcons to a sectional championship over the Spartans last season. He has already committed to continuing his baseball career at Youngstown State. Unfortunately, it will take close to a month before the southpaw slinger can help the Falcons on the mound. Incredibly, he pitched that sectional title tilt with a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. Misik will miss between three and four weeks while he recovers from that ailment, but there is some good news.

"The outlook is good," said Paris. "The doctors want us to take our time with him and there's no reason to throw him out there this early in the season. He'll still be able to hit and play first base and designated hitter for us. He'll be an important piece for us in the middle of our lineup."

Two other seniors who should also get plenty of starts are catcher Christian Myers and centerfielder Bobby Cavalier. Myers made an impression on the coaching staff a year ago as an outfielder and will get the first crack at replacing star backstop Mike Grazier who now catches at Westminster. Cavalier is a speed burner who played quarterback for the Falcons' football team in 2018. He'll be ready to roll on the diamond in 2019.

"We will need (Myers and Cavalier) a lot," said Paris. "Cavalier will be our leadoff hitter and Myers will be somewhere in the three, four or five spot in our lineup."

While Misik is mending his shoulder, senior Devin Higginbotham should take plenty of the top of the rotation pitching turns. He worked on his control last season and seems ready to lead Fitch at the start of the season.

"(Higginbotham) is our number two (pitcher)," Paris said. "He pitched a lot on the jayvee level last year and really straightened a lot out."

Lefties Pat Coleman and Trey Giannini are a pair of juniors that Paris will also plan to use throughout the year on the bump. Brett Porter, Joe Remish and Blake Jefferies are the other seniors that will get a shot to shine this season.

The Falcons do have a dynamic duo at the keystone this spring. Sophomores Alarik Sierra and Jake Lawrence will be the starters at shortstop and second base respectively and should start a legacy that has Coach Paris ecstatic.

"(Sierra and Lawrence) really separated themselves (from the competition)," Paris said. "It'll be great to have them for three years. It's good for our program. When they're done, they have a chance to be the best double play combination in school history."

Paris' praise for his underclassmen didn't stop with that dynamic duo either.

"By the time the year is over we may have three or four more sophomores and a couple freshmen in the lineup," he predicted.

Having Sierra and Lawrence along with Cavalier in center makes Fitch's middle spectacular. That is part of the reason why the coach thinks defense will be one of the best aspects of his squad. When Misik returns to the hill, it'll also give the Falcons one of the best pitchers in the district. Offense, however, will be a work in progress all year.

"We hit a lot of home runs last year, but this year we'll have to concentrate on putting the ball in play," Paris said. "We need to maybe play more small ball and use our speed. We need to get guys on base, move them over and get them in."

If the Falcons are able to do that offensively, then they may have another shot of at least sharing the conference crown. Having a healthy senior stud starting pitcher will certainly help as well.

 
 

 

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