By Troy Maurello
The Monsignor McClancy baseball team is not going to let lofty expectations negatively affect its quest for a city title.
McClancy returns a majority of its key players from its run to the CHSAA Class AA Intersectional semifinal last season, but head coach Nick Melito isn’t ready to crown his team pre-season favorites just yet.
“We don’t have that expectation,” he said. “Because if you put that expectation on them, it’s unfair to them. Every year is different.”
Melito went on to note that although his team returns a great number of its starters from last season, they have also lost a lot of their leaders from 2015, or “character people” as he called them.
Tasked with carrying on that leadership role in 2016 will be three juniors with a lot of potential. Captains Charlie Neuweiler, Ryan Neuweiler and Quentin Holmes, all of whom have already committed to NCAA Division I programs, will be expected to lead another young McClancy team.
“This team is building their new leaders,” Melito said. “The two Neuweilers and Quentin Holmes, they could be three of the best juniors in the city. That’s only three players, but their leadership is going to be tested now as juniors.”
Whether or not the Neuweiler twins and Holmes can answer the bell as leaders for McClancy this season will be determined in the coming months. But if their play on the field carries over from last season, the Crusaders should be in good shape.
Charlie Neuweiler, who is committed to LIU Brooklyn, will be relied upon to anchor the McClancy pitching staff this season. As a sophomore, he posted a 10-2 record with a 1.28 ERA and 10 strikeouts per game.
Neuweiler’s twin brother Ryan, who will join Charlie at LIU, is projected to be the No. 2 starter on the McClancy staff. Following him will be senior Frank Albericco, who won both of his playoff starts for the Crusaders last season.
Melito stressed the importance of Albericco and whoever else steps up as the fourth and fifth starters in the McClancy rotation as the season gets going.
“You know our league, you know how it goes, basically every other day you’re playing,” he said. “I think he’s [Albericco] very important, and somewhere down the line we have to cultivate a few more pitchers, because it’s a long season in a short period of time.”
The Mississippi State-bound Holmes should be the one to carry McClancy on the offensive side after his breakout sophomore season. The athletic center fielder hit .350 with four home runs last season, and he added 18 stolen bases as well.
Melito had nothing but praise for Holmes, but he also made sure to note the importance of keeping things in perspective for his star center fielder.
“I think he just has to stay enjoying the game,” the coach said. “He’s got some pressure on him but the pressure is created by himself because he wants to get better.”
No matter the pressure that Holmes does or doesn’t have on him heading into the season, he’ll definitely have a good deal of help on offense. Both Neuweilers are expected to contribute, while left-handed sophomore catcher Kyle Schaefer and senior outfielder Jon Lluvera round out the projected top of the McClancy lineup.
Through all of his humility, Melito made it clear that the goal for this year’s McClancy team remains the same.
“Every year, our goal is to win the city championship. If you don’t have that goal in mind, you really shouldn’t be playing… so that’s the goal,” Melito said. “I could tell you this, last year we were very disappointed… every year is ‘Hey, we want to win the city championship.’”