Perry dropped its season opener at Hawken on Saturday, but the Pirates have better days ahead of them this spring.
Hawken scored four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to win that game, but the Pirates showed they have the tools in place to be successful this spring.
“I have high expectations for our team this year as we are talented,” said Perry coach Matt Platt. “We are younger with only one senior, but many of our starters play baseball all summer and work at it in the offseason.”
The Pirates return four starters from last year’s squad that finished 16-11 overall and 6-5 in the Chagrin Valley Conference Chagrin Division.
“I expect us to compete throughout our entire schedule,” Platt said. “Our mentality as a program is to play the entire game with no let-up and finish every inning. This approach has been the (modus operandi) of several of our comeback wins over the last couple of seasons.”
Perry’s young squad demonstrated this on Saturday as they trailed the Hawks 6-0 before scoring four runs in the fifth and two more in the sixth to take a 7-6 lead into the seventh inning.
The Pirates added two more runs in the top of the seventh, but Hawken responded with a four-spot to end the game in the bottom half of the inning.
Despite the loss, the Pirates gained valuable experience in their opener.
“Getting some of our younger guys experience and reps at the varsity level to prepare for pressure situations and game speed is the natural method to get them ready,” Platt said. “We’re trying to put them in similar positions at practice to prepare them for game situations.”
Sophomore Owen McKoon was one of three Perry players to record two hits at Hawken.
He returns behind the dish after earning second-team all-conference and all-district and first-team All-Lake County honors as a freshman.
“Owen McKoon will return as our leading RBI producer from last year and hit in the middle of the lineup again,” Platt said. “He will handle the pitching staff behind the plate and aim to limit other teams’ running games. He is a team captain this year and has high expectations for himself and his team.”
Junior Jason Pentek also is a team captain.
He returns at third base and on the hill after earning second-team All-CVC honors last season.
“Jason Pentek will lead the pitching staff in his third year as a varsity starter,” Platt said. “He led the team in innings pitched last year and will hit in the middle of our lineup this year. He is our second team captain and is excited to lead this ball club this year.”
Junior first baseman Sam Tharp is the third of Perry’s tri-captains.
“Sam will play first base and possibly some other infield spot for us this year,” Platt said. “Sam will also hit in the middle of the lineup. He played a gold-glove caliber first base last year as a sophomore and has overall high expectations for himself and the team this year. He is our third team captain and has been an absolute leader for this club throughout the off-season and moving forward as well.”
Rounding out the projected starting lineup for the Pirates are sophomores Kyle Rhineberger (2B), Logan Buehner (LF), and Luke Sivon (CF), and freshmen Brody Petruccelli (SS), Trent Taylor (RF), and Connor D’Astolfo (DH).
Sophomore Cade Henderson will play third when Pentek pitches.
Rhineberger and Petruccelli already have made an impact for the Pirates and Platt is excited to see what they can accomplish with some varsity experience under their belts.
“Kyle is an all-around, five-tool player. He will pitch for us, has great speed, plays a very sound second base, and puts together scrappy at-bats,” Platt said. “Brody is the other half of our young middle infield. He is a very talented baseball player loaded with potential. Defensively, great footwork, good hands, with a nice arm.”
Pentek leads the Perry pitching staff with Buehner, junior Aiden Bowman, Henderson, Rhineberger, Taylor, Sivon, McKoon, and Petruccelli ready to chew up some innings this season.
The Pirates have a relatively youthful lineup but they have their fair share of talent and are eager to compete for the Chagrin Division title.