Bellaire baseball experiencing a youth movement
By TRACY WATSON
For The Times Leader
BELLAIRE – Josh Kernik’s first year as Bellaire’s baseball coach never materialized last season, so while it is officially the beginning of his on-field tenure at the school, he, and most of his 2021 Big Reds’ players will be looking to grow together and for the future.
Kernik’s roster this campaign will consist of one four-year senior, a three-year junior, another junior beginning his first year of high school baseball, a talented group of eight seniors who didn’t get the opportunity to gain any experience last year and a pair of freshmen.
“Everything is wide open right now, because we have just two kids who have played at the high school level and basically two groups of freshmen,” Kernik said. “And while we have some kids that can play just about anywhere it should be a very interesting season.”
Leading the way is senior Vince Patrone who when not on the pitching mound will be found at either first or third base. The only other veteran on the squad is junior Dante Patrone, who will start in the outfield and be joined by first-timer Daniel Zwack at either first base or in the outfield.
That paves the way for the 10 underclassmen on the roster to battle for starting positions. The group of freshmen will include Chance Maffe, who can play just about anywhere in the infield or outfield and also pitch; Brayden Roth and Jake Heatherington both at shortstop, second base and pitcher; TJ Wines in the outfield; Isaac Salva at first base and pitcher; Kaden Banal behind the plate, in the outfield and pitcher; Joey Lewis centerfield, catcher and pitcher and Jakob Dowling who will be found either on the mound, at short, second, catcher or in the outfield.
Freshmen Lex Wilhelm (1B, P, OF) and Andrew Lamotte (3B, P, OF) will also both be in the hunt for serious playing time.
The core of the pitching rotation will fall to Heatherington, Vince Patrone, Wilhelm and Maffe with the others all in line for spot starts and relief appearances.
“We have some pretty talented kids on the roster, all of whom love the game, and everyone will contribute,” Kernik commented. “There may not be numbers where experience is concerned but we have some younger kids ready to play and their experience levels will grow quickly.
“These kids are fun to be around and they have really bonded with our coaching staff. We have team players, not individualists, and these kids are ready to go out and play together as a team. And we have so many kids that are interchangeable at positions which is going to make things a little easier.
“Everyone is excited, and the guys are ready to go out, compete and are ready to learn, which I believe is the most important part.”
Joining Kernik on the coaching staff will be Bailey McGrath and Frankie Hibbitts.