By Anthony Bosco
The Catholic High School Athletic Association Brooklyn/Queens Diocesan varsity baseball league has been dominated by the same schools for the past several seasons and that pattern will likely be extended another year with Brooklyn’s Xaverian and Queens’ Archbishop Molloy again leading the charge in 2002.
Xaverian, picked by most coaches to win the regular season crown, has deep pitching and offensive and defensive security in its talented outfield. Molloy may end up a step behind, but certainly can make things interesting for the Clippers this year.
Shortstop Mike Baxter, a Whitestone native who committed to Columbia University over the summer, hit close to .400 last season and leads a senior-laden team that went further into the playoffs than any other team from the borough.
Matt Bunyan, Matt Feeley and TJ O’Leary, the TimesLedger CHSAA Soccer Player of the Year, will pace Molloy on the mound. The Stanners have won 16 city championships in 25 trips to the title game under veteran coach Jack Curran, compiling a record of 1,279-348 prior to this season.
St. Francis Prep, which finished last year at 18-7, lost several key cogs from last year’s club, including ace Brian Morgan, but the Terriers still figure to make a run at the B/Q crown thanks to a plentiful returning class.
Center fielder Brian Forman figures to play a key role for Prep throughout the season and will be aided by the play of Mike Aglialoro, Steven Eng, Jason Leberfeld, Pat Shenners, Rich McGraw, Joe Ivazes, Pete Mazzurco and Danny Michitsch.
“We’re young and we should play good defense,” said St. Francis Prep head coach Bro. Robert Kent. “I think we can field the ball if we can get good pitching. We should be in all the games.”
Christ the King had a solid season in 2001 under first-year coach Walter Tuthill. Now in his sophomore season at the helm, Tuthill returns with only two seniors to the fold, but both are extremely talented upper classmen who could lead an inexperienced troupe of upstarts to the promised land: Yankee Stadium.
Shortstop Rafael Castillo and center field Abel Sanchez will lead the team offensively and defensively and will be helped by the starting pitching of Kenny VanBrunt, Jose Diverge and sophomore Joe Palmieri. Robert Boland, Tuthill said, will be the Royals’ closer.
Batting behind Castillo, whom Tuthill calls the team’s best hitter, will be sophomore Rafael Lajara batting in the No. 3 spot and clean-up man Mike Schatzel, the team’s catcher and a transfer from Molloy.
“So far we’ve been ok,” Tuthill said. “I’ve been surprised. I have so many young kids. The chemistry is very good. They play well together. It’s very surprising.”
Monsignor McClancy, coached by Nick Melito, fought for every win last year, but failed to make the citywide playoffs after being ousted by Holy Cross in the play-in game. The club is still very young and inexperienced — mostly juniors — but could be better than a season ago.
“We’re very young,” Melito said. “I think in the beginning we might struggle a bit due to inexperience, but by the end of the season I think we may do fairly well.”
Joe D’Andrea will play both first and third base and is the best hitter on the team, Melito said. Sam Maldanado will patrol center field and Anthony Russo will also play the outfield when he is not called upon to pitch in spot duty.
The pitching staff is almost exclusively made up of juniors, including Pete Massaro, Kevin Conlin, Ed McDonnell and Ed Gonzalez.
The team, along with St. Francis Prep, traveled to Fort Lauderdale to participate in the annual St. Thomas Aquinas Tournament and will open its league season on Tuesday, April 9, at home against Molloy.
Holy Cross, which also struggled a season ago, has a new coach in Doug Manfredonia.
In the CHSAA ‘B’ division, Queens is represented by St. John’s Prep, to be led by juniors Greg Jones and Colm Dillon on the mound, and Cathedral Prep, which will be paced by sophomore second baseman Vinny Johnson, senior outfielder Matt Moloney will patrol left field and junior Danny Fischer, who will play in right.
Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.