Saturday, March 20, 2021 | 13.20
After planning to make it public last year before the pandemic broke the schedule, the Derry baseball team will try again this season to honor the memory of the mother of one of its players by including her initials on the team’s hats.
Wendy Jones, Sam Jones’ mother, died of cancer Jan. 30. 2020, and the senior player / first baseman and his teammates hope her lasting memory will motivate them to play at a higher level, said coach John Flickinger.
“I expect great things from Sam and the rest of this group,” Flickinger said. “We’re on a mission right now.”
Wendy S. (Roth) Jones, a longtime teacher in the Greater Latrobe School District, was 46.
Her passing has been a central point in Derry’s motivation for more than a year now. The Trojans, hoping to finally open the year on March 28 with a Sunday afternoon nonsense match at Baldwin, won a couple of WPIAL section titles in 1990 and ’92 with Flickinger making the most of the catch for the prominent teams.
Three decades later, his vigilance for a new banner year rages.
“We’re approached several times, but we still have not won a section title since ’92,” said Flickinger, who also played in Derry’s second place in 1991. “That’s what the kids have been shooting for. That’s what they want for the banner. ”
Flickinger, who continued to play at the IUP after high school, served a total of 13 years as an assistant at Penn-Trafford and Derry, where he took over the program in 2012, but has yet to earn a section championship as a coach. .
Derry and Mt. Pleasant this season is among the WPIAL teams that have dropped a Class 3A classification and will join Section 3 of Deer Lakes, East Allegheny, Ligonier Valley and Valley.
After finishing last season, Derry returns almost the entire team from two years ago, losing only one senior who was denied a chance to play last year.
Eight returning postmen are among 10 seniors and six juniors on the current 17-man university list. Outfielder Antonio Hauser is the only sophomore.
“We are at the top of the mountain as far as numbers. We have 30 boys out, ”said Flickinger, referring to 9-12. “This is a team we have created from when they were first-year students and second-year students.
“From a perspective of how many arms I have and how many children I have who are baseball-savvy, I do not think I have ever trained a group like I have this year.”
The returnees include senior shortstop Josh Ulery, a Pitt-Johnstown commitment, who is among four pitchers expected to eat up most of the innings for the Trojans, which were 8-11 in 2019.
The others are seniors Paul Koontz and Nick Detore and 6-foot-4, 225-pound junior Ryan Hood.
“Hood has amazing things,” Flickinger said. “But I have no problem placing any of them out there in any situation.”
Ulery will be paired in midfield with senior second baseman Ryan Bushey, a tandem that Flickinger fantasized about.
“I want to pit them against someone in our section,” he said. “They are quite slippery. They work well together and have worked together since the turn of the year. ”
The field is anchored by senior midfielder Matt McDowell, a defensive wizard whom the team refers to as “The Ball Hawk.” Flickinger said he is confident McDowell can improve his stroke to become “a complete player.”
Hauser and junior Nick Thomas are sometimes expected to join McDowell in the field, with Jones sharing time there and at first base. Seniors Jaden Jackson and Elijah Penich are other outfield candidates.
Junior Brayden Mickinac is back for his third seasons on catcher, but he will also fill in at third base, said Flickinger, giving junior Noah Cymmerman some time behind the plate.
Other players who offer playing time are seniors Elijah and Isaiah Ward and juniors Lucas Ray and Jake Watson.
“Our veteran management has made it so much easier to move forward in practice,” Flickinger said. “The guys have been in the system long enough now that we have had to do less coaching of the little things. Repetition is key when getting outside of Western Pennsylvania. These guys have gotten a lot of reps, and I know they have some potential to do some really good things.
“We may have a special season, but they have to go out and play and get it done.”
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