2022 N.West/Putnam Baseball Preview
Reigning Class AA Champ Carmel Set to Turn over New Leaf
By Ray Gallagher, Examiner Sports Editor @Directrays
WALTER PANAS has never hoisted a Section 1 baseball title plaque. Coach Anthony Fata’s Panthers came awfully close back in 2004 when losing to Eastchester in the Class A finals, and a premature exit in 2021 prompted yet another oh-so-close conclusion. If Panas fails to win a sectional title in 2022, it will only further the notion that baseball is the most unpredictable sport in modern history, because the Panthers are loaded this spring.
Fata’s club is stacked as March turns to April and only a spell of bad health – and or baseball’s capricious nature – could prevent a deep run in the sectional tournament, given the armor the Panthers have at their disposal.
With five D-I players on the current roster, and a host of others along the next level, Panas is on the tip of every Section 1 coach’s tongue when asked about the prospects of chasing down the Class A crown.
A millions knives were sharpened leading up to the spring of 2022, but Panas has the edge going in. There are numerous prospects on the roster – including Clemson-bound junior SS Samuel Stafura, East Carolina-bound junior P/3B Jackson DiLorenzo, St. John’s-bound senior P/OF Aidan Cohall and Stetson-bound junior C Dan Witters. Panas is bound to win enough games to secure a very high seed in the postseason. To boot, the quartet will be joined by B.C. commit Tony Humphrey, who left Iona Prep to join the Panthers.
But that doesn’t matter much in the playoffs when anything can happen and anyone one can upset the apple cart when the aces unfold and a flush hits the crapper.
DiLorenzo, who also anchors the hot corner on “off days”, is the ace of the staff, a 90+-MPH chucker who shoved to the tune of a 4-0 record and a 1.34 ERA last season. Explosive and poised, the easy-going 6’ 210-pound RHP is stoked for the 2022 campaign.
Fata, now in his 22nd year as the Panas head coach, will call DiLo’s number as often as possible as potentially the No.1 pitcher in Class A this season; right there with Byram Hills ace Bobby Chicoine.
“I’m absolutely pumped up, we got a lot of work to do, but we are for sure ready for whatever it takes. I know my boys and I are glad to hear that people look at us as the team to beat but we haven’t proven anything yet. Quite honestly we are just getting started. We want to show out the rest of the season.”
DiLo did so in the season opener against YORKTOWN, firing five scoreless innings with five whiffs.
“He had his stuff against Yorktown, and we waited for this game for a very long time,” batterymate Witters said. “He’s gotta be my favorite guy I’ve ever caught. We all worked our tail off this winter and made some great strides. I’m so happy to be a part of this team.”
Cohall cracked two doubles and an RBI against a Yorktown team that also expects to contend in Class A. DiLorenzo, Stafura and Witters each knocked in a run. The Panthers continued their onslaught Friday in an 11-1 win over Horace Greeley. Travis Carlucci (2-4, 2B, 3 RBI), Stafura (RBI), DiLorenzo (2 RBI), Humphrey (2B, RBI), Austin Pagliettini (RBI) and Gavin Carlucci (2B, RBI) all supported P Cohall (5 IP, 6 Ks, 2 hits, 1 ER), who added an RBI. Panas closed out the week with a 7-4 win over Class AA White Plains Saturday behind a pair of dingers and four RBI from Cohall, who also swiped a pair of bases.Travis Carlucci (1-3, RBI, 3 stolen bases), Witters (1-2, 2B) and Derek Hawley (1-2, RBI) all supported chuckers Gavin Carlucci (4 IP, 1K, 3 hits, 3 ER, 3BB), Alex Enea (2 IP, 2 K, 1 hit, 1ER) and closer Jackson DiLorenzo (1 IP, 2Ks, no hits).
Yorktown, despite losing a quarterfinal heartbreaker to Clarkstown North, had one of their finest seasons (15-3 last year) in quite some time under first-year Coach CJ Riefenhauser and returns three starting players from a team that reached the quarterfinals as the No.1 seed. CF Jon Munoz (Cortland), RF Stephen Haglund (Oswego) and SS Nick Jacoby (Oneonta) bolster the defense behind a rebuilt staff and Quinnipiac-bound ace Matt Alduino (LHP). Provided Yorktown has a stash of others who can spin it, expect the Huskers to build on last year. Despite not scoring a run in their first two games, including Saturday’s 10-0 loss to Arlington, the Huskers have already faced two of the toughest opponents Section 1 has to offer this season. The Huskers are already battle tested.
CARMEL returns as the reigning Class AA champs for the first time in two decades. But Rams Coach Joe Hackert has lost the bulk of the finest senior class in Carmel baseball history. Seniors, SS/P Kevin Dall and 1B Brendan Murphy, both saw significant time and experience last year, and will head up a new cast of characters. The group is relatively untested at the varsity level but has shown some fire in the early going, including Nevin Scaperotti, Kevin Heffernon, Mike Youngman, Mark Yorio, John Melarczik, Pat Kiernan and Danny Monahan. Their Inexperience makes challenging Dutchess County powers like 2021 finalist RCK and semifinalist Arlington – league rivals – all the more difficult, not to mention the consistency of non-league FOX LANE. The Rams (19-3 last year) opened the campaign with a double header sweep at MAHOPAC, which is coming off a lean year (5-13) by the Indians’ standards. And 2022 hasn’t started off much better, including a 10-0 season-opening loss to Pelham, which held Mahopac to two hits and benefitted from five costly errors. Mahopac, which has dropped down to Class A this season, has some work to do.
Dall (2 hits, 2 runs) and Murphy (2 RBI) were at the heart of the Rams’ attack in the 5-0 win over Mahopac, which hung tough for five innings behind ace P Chris McKeon (5 IP, 2 hits, 0 earned runs, 6 K’s). However, Carmel’s Yorio and Matt Gay combined on a five-hit shutout, fanning 10 Indians in all. Heffernan added an RBI.
Dall’s footprint was all over Game 2, a 5-1 Carmel win. He had three hits (2B), an RBI and a run while Heffernan drove home a pair to support Carmel P Scaperotti ( 6.1 IP, 10 K’s), who baffled the Indians, who had just three hits and have been tough to come by for Mahopac (10 hits in 3 losses). Joey Koch knocked in Mahopac’s lone run of the day.
“We are extremely green and inexperienced,” Hackert admitted, “and we have a tough week ahead of us with Fox Lane, Clarkstown South (2X) and Somers. Arlington is the real deal and we’ll see them twice in our league.”
LAKELAND will begin a new era under first-year Coach Justin McCarthy, but he won’t have any Joey Vetranos – the two-time Player of the Year – or Evan Bertas to work with. Versatile senior IF/C Joe Torres (.365 BA) will serve as his Swiss Army knife instead, along with senior CF MJ Diaz and Ryan McArdle (All-League, P/OF).
Preceding the Bill Casey era, which included two sectional titles and an appearance in the state finals, McCarthy, a 2010 Lakeland graduate, was built for this job, but similar results will be tough to come by in 2022 after a 7-11 2021 season. Having spent four years as an assistant to Casey and having played in the system, McCarthy’s team will know the nuances of baseball while serving as interchangeable parts. Keep an eye on the development of versatile young C/IF/OF Devin Diaz (class of 2026), who has some of the finest metrics in the country (yes, country, not county), and projects to be the next big thing in the region.
HEN HUD (10-9) had some fine moments last year, including a win over Byram Hills and a No.4 seed in the Class A-2 playoffs. Senior captain Josh Shea (P/IF) and junior SS Michael Gagliardi. Keep eyes on sophomore OF Matt Bronner, a budding star. Hen Hud’s got some underclassmen who can shine in due time, including eight sophs on the current varsity roster, five of which are listed as pitchers.
SOMERS is coming off a tough year (7-12), but second-year Coach Anthony Nappi is banking on several key veterans to turn things around, including speedy junior CF Ravi Davis and P/IF Stefan Swee.
OSSINING is another club coming off a down year (5-14) and first-round elimination at the hands of Carmel. BREWSTER (1-17) drew a similar fate and hopes to rebuild its competitive roots, starting with a 10-2 win over Westlake at Dutchess Stadium Saturday..
The Pride started off on the right foot with a 7-5 win over Lakeland Saturday. Brian Hoffman went 3-3 for Ossining and Mike Lebensen cracked a clutch two-run, game-winning hit. Nolan Sniffen fanned six over seven frames for the Pride, who was sure to be tested yesterday at Panas.
In Class B, PUTNAM VALLEY (7-12) and CROTON (7-11) split a pair of games last season and both expect to build upon last year, which saw both bow out in the opening round. Both clubs return a slew of starters. Put Valley has a legit modified unit that should translate into a strong run in the not-too-distant future, so keep your eyes on that.
Class C HALDANE is coming off a disappointing 1-14 season and hopes to gain back its oft-competitive status.
Ray has 33 years experience covering and photographing local sports in Westchester and Putnam counties, including everything from Little League/Travel Baseball to varsity high school prep sports and collegiate coverage. He has been a sports editor at Examiner Media since its inception in 2007.