2001 Rover News

Easton keeps it all in family
Carm LaDuca named new Varsity Baseball Coach
June 29, 2001
By BARRY MILLER, The Express-Times PALMER TWP. - Easton Area High School rewarded two veteran assistants with head coaching positions Thursday - elevating Eric Jacobs to girls basketball coach and Carm LaDuca to baseball coach. Jacobs and LaDuca, both 35 and 1983 graduates of Easton High, share similar backgrounds in coaching. Both first served as volunteer coaches at Easton, then became top assistants under head coaches. Jacobs replaces his sister Shelly Bartolacci, who resigned after her second seven-year stint as head coach. LaDuca replaces Tony Ciavarella, who served as the Red Rovers’ head coach for 18 seasons. Both coaches shared words of praise for the former head coaches. "She’ll be a tough act to follow," said Jacobs, who plans to add his sister to his staff. "She’s done a great job with this program." Bartolacci guided Easton to the District 11 Class AAAA title in 1999. She is a two-time Express-Times coach of the year. "Tony (Ciavarella) was my mentor. I owe a lot to him," LaDuca said. Ciavarella’s teams won District 11 titles in 1990 and 1993. LaDuca, an East Stroudsburg University graduate, has coached baseball 10 years at Easton, including the first five as a volunteer. He served as junior varsity coach for eight seasons. Bartolacci and Ciavarella did another favor for the two new coaches by leaving them with a talented, veteran returning roster. The Red Rovers baseball team returns 13 players, including the top three pitchers - Steve Bakros, Ryan Mertz and Kevin Forik. Easton also returns starters Don Gentzle, Jason Brewer and Jesse Pellegrino. Despite the veteran cast, LaDuca sees room for improvement in two primary areas - defense and clutch hitting. Easton committed 45 errors during this past season’s 9-11 campaign. "A lot of games, by just putting the ball in play we could have produced runs," he said. "We’ll work on that." He plans to upgrade the fall program to concentrate on those areas of weakness. He also said Greg Hess will return and be his top assistant. LaDuca, a former second baseman and East Penn Conference All-Star as a senior, set a goal of making the District 11 Tournament next year. Easton hasn’t played in districts since 1996. Jacobs admits that he’s excited about the prospects with a talented nucleus. The Red Rovers lineup includes Liz Hayes, an Express-Times area first-team selection, and Taryn Holgash, a second-team pick. Starters Kiersten Holgash and Ashley Bechtel also return. Jacobs said the Red Rovers placed third in a tournament recently at Holy Family Gym, which drew many of the top teams from around the state. "We have very high expectations," Jacobs said. "We want to win 20 games and we want to win a championship - either District 11 or Mountain Valley Conference." He plans to stress man-to-man defense and an up-tempo game. "That’s the system that best fits our players," he said. Jacobs was a three-year starter at Easton and a East Penn Conference All-Star during his junior and senior years. He played at Scranton, where he led the nation in free throw shooting during his junior year. He was selected to the Middle Atlantic Conference All-Star team. He also played two years professionally in Europe. Both coaches concurred the loyalty that Easton shows to its former athletes means a great deal to them. "The support we get from the district and the community support is unbelievable," Jacobs said. "The loyalty they show is great," LaDuca said. Jacobs teaches business at Easton High and LaDuca is a seventh-grade teacher at Shawnee Middle School.

The Express-Times Interview with Coach Ciavarella
Ciavarella seeks return to districts for Easton
April 3, 2001
Not too many years ago, according to Easton baseball coach Tony Ciavarella, a .500 record and a berth in the District 11 playoffs was the norm and not the exception. Not lately. The Easton Red Rovers have been shut out of the district’s Class AAA tournament each of the past four seasons. Teams qualify for the postseason with a .500 overall or conference record. Ciavarella’s crew was 8-12 in 2000, 8-12 in ’99, 5-15 in ’98 and 6-14 in ’97. Not too many baseball fans remember the Red Rovers are one of only two teams to win district titles in the 1990s. (Allen was the other.) Easton won championships in ’90 and ’93. Another district title would be good, but right now Ciavarella is focused on getting the Red Rovers back into the tournament. "As a coach, I used to take for granted that we would always be there," said Ciavarella, who has a 183-178 record since taking over the program in 1984. "People look at Pleasant Valley, Northampton and Emmaus as marquee programs. Well, we used to be there. And it’s very important to me that we get back." Last year was especially difficult for the coach. Just as it looked like Easton was about to make a postseason run - the Red Rovers beat East Stroudsburg to improve to 7-5 - the run came to an abrupt halt. Instead of earning their seventh win, however, the Red Rovers had to forfeit the victory because of illegal use of a pitcher. The Easton coaching staff erred in using T.J. Heimbach too many innings in consecutive days. Easton went 2-6 over its final eight games. After the season, Ciavarella came under attack from several Red Rover parents for being too negative with players. Rumors swirled in the offseason that Ciavarella would resign. "I have a plan as to how long I want to coach," he said. "I’ll never allow outside factors to determine when I stop. I’ll do that on my own terms. I went from being a savior of the program to being attacked. I’ve been at the top and bottom." Ciavarella said he believes the struggles are more attitude than talent. He also said he believes this season’s squad has the talent to qualify for districts if the attitude allows. Easton beat Freedom 14-7 Monday afternoon to improve to 2-1. The Red Rovers, led by seniors Matt Loebsack and Mike Van Dyk, will go as far as their young but promising pitching staff will take them. "We’re going to have to play solid, fundamental baseball. Talent-wise I think we have enough," Ciavarella said. "I think close games have been big. We used to find ways to win at the end of games. Now, we’re not doing that. It’s a matter of players believing in themselves, because we as coaches, believe. I want the program to be looked upon as one of the best in the Valley again. The baseball program at Easton is very important to me."

The Express-Times Mountain Valley Conference 2001 Preview
Trojans ready to defend title
March 28, 2001
03/28/01 By MICHAEL BLOUSE The Express-Times The scholastic sports season has changed over from winter to spring, but the expectations remain the same. Parkland High School, the defending Mountain Valley Conference baseball champion, is the coaches’ choice to again claim the conference’s Valley Division crown. The "other" five schools - Easton, Freedom, Liberty, Northampton and Whitehall - again are expected to slug it out for the second spot. The coaches were correct about the Trojans’ boys basketball team. Parkland dominated on its way to conference and District 11 Class AAAA championships this winter. Coach Terry Stoudt’s baseball team could rule the spring season in similiar style. Parkland, which went 16-6 and ended last season ranked No. 8 in The Express-Times region Top 10, returns seven of its nine starters, including five three-year senior starters. "As I told the kids, everybody is aiming for us and that’s OK with me," Stoudt said. "We don’t mind. Actually, it’s an honor. If we remain healthy we could have a lot of fun. But, we must go out and perform." Chris Peters (.386 batting average, 21 runs batted in last season), an all-conference catcher, is back for his senior season along with pitcher/shortstop Ryan Eisenhard, center fielder Terry Thomas (.329), right fielder Greg Knauss and second baseman Kyle Peters (.400, 21 RBIs), Chris’ twin brother. Thomas was an all-division selection, while Eisenhard and Knauss were injured and did not play most of last season. The pitching staff, which lost ace right-hander Mike Mihalik to graduation, could be the team’s strength. Eisenhard, fellow seniors Jarrod Ringer (3-2 pitching record) and Chris Andrews (3-1), junior Chris Fredericks (2-1) and sophomores Mike Collins and Brian Cope give the Trojans’ pitching staff both quality and depth. "Parkland was young last season and they have a good bunch of ballplayers back," Northampton coach Mike Sugra said. "Preseason, Parkland is the team to beat." Easton (8-12 last year) is one of the teams that coaches are predicting to be the most improved. The Red Rovers return senior Matt Loebsack (.329, 13 runs), who will move from catcher to center field, and senior Mike Van Dyk (.375, 18 RBIs), who will play outfield or first base. Loebsack and Van Dyk both are expected to see innings on the mound, according to coach Tony Ciavarella. Finding quality arms is Easton’s biggest preseason concern. T.J. Heimbach, who pitched 60 of the Red Rovers’ 138 innings and had a 1.52 ERA last season, graduated as did John Werkheiser, who was second on the staff with 26 innings. Expect Steve Bakros, the starting third baseman, left-hander John Paul, Kevin Forik, Greg Janowicz and Van Dyk all to get work on the mound. "We might limit guys to three innings and give teams a lot of different looks," said Ciavarella, whose team has missed districts the past four seasons. "We don’t have the luxury of a No. 1 or No. 2 guy. We’re going to have to see who can consistently get guys out. I think we should hit the ball. I’m real comfortable with our hitting. And I think we’ll play good defense. Our big question mark is pitching." Freedom (6-14) went from the Valley Division’s best team to its worst in one year. Coach Fred Harris hopes to get his Patriots back near the top of the conference’s standings this season. Left fielder David Kohler, center fielder Bryan Smith, shortstop Carl Strobl, first baseman Brian Jones and third baseman Brian Hamedl return to lead the attack. Brothers Josh and Jeremy Kametz will share the catching duties. Ryan Dalton, a junior right-hander, is expected to anchor the pitching corps. "We’re deeper with our pitching and more experienced overall than last year," Harris said. "We have a lot of guys that can throw strikes … we won’t overpower anyone but we should be able to throw strikes. I’m optimistic. I think the key to our season is how well we do the fundamentals." Liberty (15-7) lost to Parkland two times during the conference season last spring before beating the Trojans in the district quarterfinals. The Hurricane is the coaches’ choice to be the biggest threat to the defending champions. Seniors Dave Edwards, a catcher/pitcher, Mike Schweder (.317), a first baseman/pitcher, Anthony Giering (.304), a second baseman, and outfielders Greg Thomas and Tony Marrero lead the way. Coach Harry Dudeck expects Bryant Harris to emerge as the staff ace and hopes Marrero develops into a solid No. 2 starter. Liberty’s biggest challenge will be replacing all-conference shortstop/pitcher John Ruhf, who made the 42-man roster as a walk-on at Penn State University. "We feel real good about our team," said Dudeck, in his 34th season with Liberty’s baseball program. "We have great kids. (Assistant coach) George (Pitsilos) and I were talking the other day and I told him I could do this another 20 years with kids like this. I don’t know how that will translate into wins and losses but I think we’ll be able to play with anybody when we play the way we’re capable of." Northampton (12-9) has been above-average the past few seasons but not the powerhouse it was in the early- to mid-1990s. The Konkrete Kids hope to get back to elite status this year. Seniors Brock Schneck (.365, five home runs, 27 RBIs), a sweet-swinging first baseman, and Zach Sugra (.263, 3 HRs), a solid shortstop and Mike’s son, give Northampton a strong nucleus and leadership qualities. Pat Kutzler (.313), Gene Tanzosh, Jamer Barnhart (.286) and Joel Gross (3-3) also are seniors and returning starters. "I think our senior leadership is a strength," Mike Sugra said. "They’re a good crew of kids and that makes it maybe a little easier. It will all start with our pitching." Whitehall (8-12) returns two-way standout Justin Deutsch (.313, 5-2), a senior first baseman/pitcher, Jon Wiltraut (.308), a senior shortstop, and Todd Brosious (.300), a senior outfielder. "Pitching is our main concern," Whitehall coach Mike Saccani said. "Although we have two seniors returning and a pitching staff that is a little deeper, we need quality innings out of our younger guys to compete in a tough conference and have a successful season."

ACBL Welcomes New Franchise
Bears hoping to avoid an early hibernation
March 28, 2001
03/28/01 By NICK FIERRO The Express-Times Pleasant Valley played 20 regular-season games in 2000, won them all and was ranked No. 1 in the state because of it. Then the Bears lost to Parkland in the Mountain Valley Conference championship game and were beaten again by Emmaus for the District 11 Class AAA title. The state’s top team failed to make the state playoffs. That shortcoming still stings coach Jeff Kashner and some of his returning players, but it hasn’t made them any less imposing as far as the rest of the Mountain Division is concerned. The Bears are overwhelming favorites to repeat as division champs. Assuming they do, Kashner still isn’t making any predictions. "You can’t do that," he said. The Bears are solid and experienced throughout. They have excellent starting pitchers in Justin Kashner and Gerry Washack, proven productive offensive players such as shortstop Chad Stecker, first baseman Brent Meixsell, second baseman Zach Kozicki and outfielder Kellen Economy and sound infield defense. Kashner, Meixsell and Kozicki were all-division performers last year. "If our pitching is on, we should be in just about every game we play," said Kashner, last year’s conference coach of the year. After Pleasant Valley, the coaches believe the rest of the division is equal. "I think the rest of us will be battling for second place," Lehighton coach Rick Bennett said. "I really mean that." Lehighton will finish closer to the top than the bottom if it can find a third starting pitcher and generate some power to add to a team that’s rich with speed and defensive prowess. The Indians will build around senior ace Matt Piosa, a four-year starter who also plays outfield, and senior infielder Joe Zellner, who is moving from second base to shortstop. Zellner batted .432 and was an all-conference selection last season. Catcher Ryan Snyder, designated hitter Luke Sterling, infielder Joe Stellar, third baseman Jay Frey, pitcher/first baseman Dedan Brozino and outfielders Peter Balogach, Chad Serfass and Chris Norseworthy also hope to get the Indians back to districts for the second straight season. At Nazareth, second-year coach Nate Stannard believes the Blue Eagles can bounce back from a 6-14 season if some of its talented underclassmen come of age early. "We lost our entire pitching staff, but the JV went 15-5," he said. "We’re going to be very, very young. I think it’s going to depend on how we start off the season." Returning senior starters are first baseman Andy Geider (.309 batting average last year), left fielder Casey Meehan (.328, 18 runs), second baseman Kyle Kaufmann and right fielder Matt Gimbar. Sophomore Adam Fleck appears poised to take over at shortstop and junior Doug Ruhl is expected to do the bulk of the catching. Nazareth suffered a major setback before the season even began when it was forced to move its home games to the Lower Nazareth recreation fields. Previously, the Eagles played at Nazareth Boro Park. "I’m not quite sure what happened," Stannard said. "I guess they have to do some work (on the Boro fields) and maybe they figured they couldn’t get it done in time for us. But they’re putting in a new baseball field at the school and hopefully that will be ready for next year." The Poconos are less than an ideal setting for early spring baseball, as all of the Monroe County coaches will attest. East Stroudsburg South faced the task last week of figuring out a way to replace six starters while rarely venturing outside the building. The highlight of the Cavaliers’ preseason routine was a 3{-inning scrimmage against Phillipsburg in the rain. Folks, it just doesn’t get any better than that. If and when the skies finally do clear, coach Jeff Heard will look for big things from senior shortstop/pitcher Kane Furst (.400) and junior left-hander Sam Courtright, a hard thrower who struck out 31 batters in 38 innings a year ago. Pitching is the biggest concern for Stroudsburg coach Jeff Sodl. The Mountaineers actually have plenty of arms, but very few capable of lasting past an inning or so. Expect senior Ryan Heller, junior Ryan Gaffney and sophomore John Redmond to handle the bulk of the mound work. Heller and Redmond also will play first base. Returning position players are catcher Andy Ludlow, first baseman/designated hitter Lucas Robinson, second baseman Brian Lank, shortstop Dave Manter and third baseman Kirk Mueller. "I think we’ll hit the ball," Sodl said, "and we have more team speed than we’ve had in the past." That’s the good news. The bad news is that they’re going to need all the offense they can get. As of Monday night, new Pocono Mountain coach Dale Johnson had yet to conduct a practice on grass. The team has also had two scrimmages and one game canceled and another game postponed. "We did get them out on the parking lot for practice one night last week," Johnson said, "but that was it." Apocalypse permitting, the Cardinals will open their season today against North Schuylkill. Left-handed starter Chris Brost, who is a right-handed hitter, will bat cleanup. He’ll play first base on other days. Other lineup regulars are designated hitter/outfielder Jesse Flood, shortstop Kenny Crowe, third baseman Joshua Johnson, right fielder Mike Petruzzi, center fielder/pitcher Pete Dyson, left fielder/pitcher Danny Petruzzi, catcher/pitcher Brian Boylan and second baseman Jimmy Feimster. Other pitchers are Mike Slinger, Johnny Boylan and John Rushin.

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