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District 4A-12 Preview: Young But Talented

It’s going to be a season of growing pains in this district as Cardinal Newman and St. Andrew’s will be very young.

Whichever team learns the most the fastest will come out on top.

Here is a preview of what to expect from the district competitors this season.


CARDINAL NEWMAN CRUSADERS
2012 Record: 9-15
Head Coach: Sean Comfort
Key Returners: Bruce Steel (Jr. SS), Kyle Cunningham (Sr. C),
Tyler Krull (So. P/OF), Dylan Gorda (So. P/OF), Robbie Hoyt (So. 3B/P), Daniel Cole (Jr. UTIL/P), Anthony Zaleski (Jr. P/1B), Zack Barrett (Jr. 1B)
Newcomers to Watch: Luis Besteiro (So. P/OF)
Team Strengths: Pitching
Team Weaknesses: Youth, only three seniors
Something people not around your program need to know about your team…

“We’re a very young, but talented team, disciplined, hard-working group with lots of excitement.”

The 2013 season starts a new era at Cardinal Newman as Sean Comfort was named the new Crusaders head coach this past offseason. Comfort replaces legendary coach Jack Kokinda, for whom Comfort both played for and coached under. Despite having to fill some big shoes, Comfort is excited and looking forward to the challenge.

“It’s really exciting,” Comfort said. “I was excited to first get called for an interview, and then when I got the job, I went all the way.”

Cardinal Newman players work on situational drills.

Incorporating some of his former coaches style, Comfort has created a coaching style that he thinks his new players will respond well to.

“I have a little bit of a different [coaching] style,” Comfort said. “I take some of Jack’s and some of my college coaches approach and adapt it into my own style to try and make it work and the kids respond well.”

On the field, Comfort inherits a Crusader team that was an early exit in districts and returns only three seniors. Lead by his three seniors, Comfort’s number one goal is to teach this team to win and make a run into the postseason.

“My goal is to teach them how to win, how to win in close games, and just to build confidence,” Comfort said. “It’s getting them to believe in themselves, believe in the program, believe in their teammates, and to take a learning how to win approach.”


ST. ANDREW’S SCOTS
2012 Record: 11-14
Head Coach: George Sands
Key Returners: Justin Valente (Sr. C), Ronnie Rocca (Sr. 2B), Riccie Rocca (So. CF)
Newcomers to Watch: Cal Bochino (So. 2B)
Team Strengths: Defense

St. Andrew’s coach George Sands is under no illusion about his Scots being in rebuilding mode this season.

Senior catcher Justin Valente will be relied upon heavily.

After going 21-5 in 2011, the Scots did make the playoffs in 2012, despite struggling to a sub-.500 record in the regular season. And now Sands no longer has superstar Danny Young to rely on, as he is expected to be an impact freshman at the University of Florida this season..

“We’re a very young squad with six freshman and an eighth grader,” said Sands, who is entering his seventh year as the Scots’ head coach. “This is going to be one of the toughest years since I’ve been here.”

Sands knows that, with such youth, his players will have to play solid fundamental baseball and hope that some things break his way.

“We’ll work hard and do the little things, try to push some runs across and see how we do,” said Sands, who does have some key returners up the middle to help get the most out of his newcomers.

Behind the plate will be senior catcher Justin Valente, while the Rocca brothers -– senior Ronnie and sophomore Riccie -– will patrol shortstop and center field respectively. All three players were All-District selections last season.

Nick Chiappetta shows off his fielding skills.

“Our strength will be defense,” said Sands. “We’re returning our whole infield with the exception of Danny (Young). However, we’ll be starting a sophomore and two freshmen on the mound.”

One of those starters will be Zach Moses, a transfer from the Bahamas. Moses can also play shortstop and is one of the better hitters on the team, so his impact will likely be felt across the board.

Freshman Nick Chiappetta will also be a starter, while the third spot is up for grabs among a number of ninth-graders.

Even with so little experience to work with, Sands still has hope the Scots can extend their season in 2013.

“We’ve advanced four years in a row to the postseason, and our goal this year is to make it five years in a row.”


No information received from Glades Central and Lincoln Park Academy.

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