Thursday April 11, 2013 | By:Michael J. Petro | Sports
Canisius College-bound catcher Christ Conley is back for a fourth varsity season with Lake Shore, a team that should compete for an ECIC III title. (Photo courtesy of David Eckhardt)
Pitching may ultimately be the strength of Lake Shore, but whether the Eagles have enough at the front end of that staff may be the difference in whether they can repeat their feat of two seasons ago as divisional champions in 2011.
Just about all of Lake Shore’s pitchers from last year return to create a staff seven-deep. However, Lake Shore head coach Bob Kowal is still trying to figure out who gets the ball if and when everything is on the line.
“In a way, our strength is our weakness,” said the seventh-year Lake Shore coach, who took his team down to Myrtle Beach for the Cal Ripken Experience for two games and several scrimmages. “This is the deepest staff I’ve ever had here, but I’m not sure I have a guy who I can hand them the ball and say he’ll get the win.”
Lake Shore’s best hitter has become its best pitcher as well. Division I Canisius-bound Christ Conley, who will finish as one of the program’s best hitters over four seasons, is now the staff’s hardest thrower and one of the aces.
Conley, who was a First Team All-Western New York selection, is five hits shy of 100 and will finish second in hits behind only Jason Radwan, who’s a senior playing at St. Bonaventure.
Also with the program since his freshman season, Tyler Mascio returns to the district after attending Canisius in the fall, but the junior did not miss a baseball game in the transition. He’ll be back as a starter at shortstop and like Conley will be a hard-throwing arm on the mound.
Senior Matt Brzozowiec will also be a big part of the pitching staff, along with classmate Matt Kardach. Brzozowiec will also share the catching duties with Conley, both being accomplished behind the plate, helping keep the two fresh throughout the season.
Adding to the staff will be Tyler Freeman, who gave Lake Shore some quality innings in relief last season, Ryan Joslyn, Matt Vona, Jim Barry and Justin Budniewski. Jim Barry is the younger brother of ECC sophomore standout Brian Barry.
“We have more depth than that team two years ago, but that team was able to strike out a lot of kids,” Kowal said. “If we have a five-game week, I like our chances. If it turns out to be a rainy season, I love us being in a lot of games in a short period of time.”
Another key to the success of the Eagles will be their play up the middle, which will also include returning starters Billy Pinter at second base and Dane Cala in centerfield. Pinter, a second team all-league honoree and standout volleyball player, is coming back from a back injury.
Lake Shore will face some stiff competition in ECIC Division III as well this year. Western New York features nearly a dozen Division I bound players, including Conley.
Amherst also has a big-time catcher in Jonah Heim, who will attend Michigan State, while East Aurora will have standout pitcher Ian Allen. Kowal expects solid competition from Depew and Springville, as well.
“I’m thinking we’ve got a shot at winning the division,” said Kowal, who led the 2011 team to the program’s fifth regular season division championship. “We don’t have the team speed compared to that team and we lost some of the guys who really hit the ball but Mascio, Conley and Pinter were all on that team and are even better now.”