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St. John the Baptist expected to give Chaminade all it can handle in CHSAA baseball

St. Anthony's Rich Patrizio steals second base as

St. Anthony's Rich Patrizio steals second base as St. John the Baptist's Dylan Steigerwald waits for the throw in the CHSAA baseball game. (May 4, 2012) Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

It's a good thing the games aren't played on paper. The Chaminade baseball team will send 11 of its 13 returning seniors on to play college baseball this fall.

The number of college-bound players, including six headed to the NCAA Division I level, leaves the rest of the CHSAA teams wondering how to compete with the Flyers.

"No one goes 16-2 anymore," St. John the Baptist coach John Habyan said. "There's a lot of very good talent throughout the league and it's very hard to run the table. "

St. John the Baptist and St. Dominic are expected to give Chaminade a run for the title. Both teams are loaded up and down the lineup and boast deep pitching staffs. The Cougars have senior righthanded ace Greg Egan and senior righty Chris Lemorocco with a rock solid defense captained by senior catcher Chris Gaffney and anchored by senior shortstop Dylan Steigerwald. Speedy senior centerfielder Jonathan Tenaglia has outstanding range and senior third baseman Kyle Collins will key the Cougars offense.

"Our strength is up the middle," said Habyan, whose team last won the crown in 2008. "And we have experience with six of our guys having played three years of varsity."

It's all about pitching and defense in the wood-bat CHSAA. St. Dominic returns senior righthanders Kieran Ryan, headed to Hofstra, and Michael Castagnaro, who had a 1.00 ERA and will pitch for Post.

Chaminade has a deep pitching staff led by senior righthanded starters Dan Caniano, Chris Gallic and lefty Mike Castiglie. The Flyers finished fifth in the regular season one game out of second place and two from first place.

Chaminade coach Mike Pienkos, in his 33rd season, and looking for this 500th win, knows the key to capturing the parity-driven CHSAA is to play mistake-free and pound the strike zone. The depth of the Flyers pitching is impressive. They have another star in 6-3, 240-pound senior Joe Romero and junior Brendan Spagnuolo, who's verbally committed to Vanderbilt. Chaminade's big hitters are Brian Trabulsi and Chris Prete.

"Every game is a big game in our league," Pienkos said. "We play a very competitive non-league schedule to prepare for league play."

Under Pienkos, Chaminade has earned the CHSAA title in nine of 14 league playoff championships, including 2011. The Flyers were unseated by Holy Trinity last year. The Titans rode the golden arm of lefthander Alex Robinson, who now plays for Maryland, and a stout offense to the title. The return of versatile senior Pat Madigan, who is headed to Northeastern, will provide plenty of punch in the Titans lineup.

St. Anthony's won the regular season title last season and return righty Brian Tinney to a young team. Kellenberg ace Matt Weissheier evens the playing field each time the Firebirds take the field.

St. Mary's has endured the longest championship drought, last tasting a title 38 years ago in 1975. The Gaels were 0-19 a year ago, but an influx of freshmen and a new outlook could help the program turn around.

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