SHRUB OAK, N.Y.— After qualifying for the Section 1 Class A playoffs last year, where it lost 5-4 as the No. 9 seed to host No. 8 Eastchester in the opening round and finished 11-10 against a tough schedule, the Lakeland baseball squad is ready to hit the diamond once again and return to the postseason and beyond.
“Our expectations are always high,” said Lakeland third-year coach Bill Casey, who is in his ninth year with the program overall. “The only way to achieve them is to work hard every single day. I am fortunate to have some coaches that put a lot of their time into this and are great teachers. And we have a great group of kids that want to get better every day.”
One of Lakeland’s key returning players is senior shortstop/pitcher James Houlahan. He provides speed and comes off a season where he hit .500 while striking out only three times.
Another key returnee is senior first baseman/pitcher Patrick Morelli, who is a solid defender and on the mound Casey expects big innings from him.
“We have many other returning senior players that will be getting more playing time than they did last year,” said Casey, whose assistant coaches are Steve Sterlacci and Matt Phillips. “And we have high expectations for them.”
Matt Tuite (outfield), Austin Cassese (outfield), Dom Dean (third base/pitcher/catcher), Louis Costanzo (second base), Kevin Croce (third base), Bryan Petriccione (pitcher) and Taylor Berta (catcher/pitcher) are the Hornets’ other returning seniors.
Lakeland’s key newcomer is a transfer from Kennedy Catholic, senior pitcher Matt Mikulski, who will pitch at Fordham University next year.
“He’s a lefty pitcher who throws hard and brings leadership, especially to our young arms,” Casey said. “There are a few other newcomers that will be expected to step up immediately especially on the mound.”
Senior Ethan Jalca (outfield), juniors Eric Portella (pitcher/outfield), Freddy Reichelt (catcher), Matt Schenck (third base) and Andrew Baffuto (second base), sophomore Leo Cummings (pitcher/second base/shortstop) and freshmen Joey Vetrano (pitcher/outfield/first base) and Evan Berta (outfield/pitcher) are Lakeland’s other key newcomers, who along with the returnees, will have to play as a team in order to be successful, Casey said.
“We need to do everything as a team and not just when things are going good,” Casey said.
The Hornets were slated to start their season by hosting Albertus Magnus at 5 p.m. today.
“I believe the key to getting off to a good start this season is solid pitching,” Casey said. “If our starters can give us quality starts, that will be huge.”