The regular season for the Fitch baseball team begins at home against Columbiana on April 1.
That starting date is ironic because it would be foolish not to think that the Falcons are primed for a long run in the Division I tournament. The reason for so much optimism in Austintown is the fact that this Falcons team is stacked with upperclassmen that all have vast varsity experience. As many as 15 seniors or juniors will combine to make up head coach Wally Ford's roster this spring.
Two of the top Falcon upperclassmen will take up residence in the middle of the diamond. Pitcher Scott Pierce is Fitch's most experienced starting pitcher and should be in line for a No. 1 role. The junior will be throwing to magnificent battery mate Zarek Bell, who is both a great handler of a pitching staff and a middle-of-the-order force. Also seeing some time behind the dish will be senior Jeff Melnek.
Vying for the top spot in Ford's rotation with Pierce will be senior Austin Cooper. The combination of Cooper and Pierce will give the Falcons a one-two punch that will be hard to rival in the All American Conference. Other potential pitchers will be senior Ron Williams and junior Alex DiFrancesco who saw considerable innings in relief last season.
When DiFrancesco is not pitching he can be found flourishing at first base. He will be one half of Fitch's fantastic corner combination. The other part is junior third baseman Zach Miller who not only handles the hot corner, but also mashes opposing pitchers from the middle of the lineup. Junior Phil Socha is another corner infield with great offensive potential. The keystone of the infield is manned by Pierce at shortstop and slick-fielding junior Alex Sierra at second base. Senior Tony Adams is a utility infielder that Ford can use at both shortstop and second.
Not only is Fitch fabulous from first to third, but it has some sparkling outfielders as well. Speedy centerfielder Kevin Sierra is Alex's senior brother and should bat at or near the top of the order. Junior Shane Vitullo is a corner outfielder that has some pop in his bat. Junior Luke Peterson will see some action in the outfield as well as the infield. Senior Kevin Miller and junior Trent Collins will also be called upon to lead the Fitch attack this season.
This Fitch outfit fought hard in 2012 to finish three games above .500. One silver lining to that otherwise mediocre campaign was that coach Ford was able to get so many younger players such elite playing experience. Now those sophomores and juniors from a year ago are ready to reap the rewards of that considerable time on the field.
One field where the Falcons will be excited to find themselves this season will be Progressive Field in Cleveland. The Falcons will play in the Cleveland Indians Charities Hardball Classic on Saturday, April 27 against Eastlake North. Fitch will be the only local team taking part in that prestigious Progressive Field tournament.
Playing at Progressive will be an honor, but the one team the Falcons can't wait to take on locally will be Howland. Not only are the Tigers an American Tier rival and possibly the favorite to win the league this year, but they are also the same squad that has ended Fitch's season three years in a row in the tournament. Fitch won't get a chance to extract revenge on Howland until April 22. That doesn't mean that date is not circled on the schedule and is eagerly anticipated however.
With so many seasoned veterans making up this Falcon club in 2013, tripping up the Tigers' ascent to the top of the American Tier may prove to be less difficult than most experts predict. Of course, it is in the Division I playoffs where coach Ford and his kids really hope to take the Tigers out.