West Xtra: Consistent play is key element for Moon in Quad-A

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Consistency is all Dom Santeufemio can hope for this spring from his Moon Area baseball team.

Following a promising trip to Florida the week before last, the Tigers' head coach was looking for his group to pick up where it left off after participating in a pair of non-league games at Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando.

"You're always optimistic at this time of year," said Santeufemio, who enters his 10th season guiding Moon's varsity baseball team. "Every year, you hope the new guys step up and you play decent."

The Tigers (3-0) picked up a pair of victories on March 22, first cruising to a 10-0 win against The Shipley School, which is a private school located outside of Philadelphia, before earning a 2-1 decision against Grayslake Central (Ill.), located northwest of Chicago.

They also knocked off perennial Class AAAA power Seneca Valley, 9-6, on Tuesday. They'll open section play Friday at home against Woodland Hills.

"We lost our starting pitchers from last year and have a lot of underclassmen returning," Santeufemio said. "We graduated nine seniors from last year but we have nine seniors this year.

"The six-million dollar question will be: Can we pitch? We're a good defensive team. Hitting-wise, we seem to be good enough. Can we pitch? That's the question right now."

Of the those nine seniors who graduated, two of Moon's biggest losses were power-hitting first baseman Coul Koegel, who hit .489 last season, and right-handed pitcher Myles Schmidt, who led the team's pitching staff with a 4-1 record.

"We still have a veteran taste this year," Santeufemio said. "We had a lot of young kids who played last season and who are looking to start this year. We have a couple of juniors we expect big things from this year, too."

Santeufemio anticipates senior left-handed pitchers Nick Rozzo and Trevor Rasbach will lead his pitching staff as the Tigers' top two starters. Seniors Ron Yardas and Alex Papst as well as juniors Colton Hower and Matt Kotvas -- all right-handers -- also are expected to add pitching depth.

"We're hoping our pitching holds up," Santeufemio said. "Basically, if we hit well enough to score runs and continue to play well defensively, we should be able to win some ballgames.

"We have to hit the ball consistently. We're hoping guys step up. We'll probably be a good team if we hit the ball consistently. That's it."

Offensively, Santeufemio is looking for production from both senior catcher Mason Prickett and junior second baseman Rocco Maue. Yardas, who is also a right fielder, as well as shortstop Josh Bogats and outfielder Matt Capo, both seniors, return as starters in the field. Brian Casper, a designated hitter, and third baseman Austin Hoffman, both sophomores, also have moved into the Tigers starting lineup.

"We have to keep working on our mechanics," Santeufemio said. "A lot of guys can hit the fastball, but being able to hit off-speed pitches consistently will make the difference."

Moon, which failed to qualify for the playoffs in 2012, had been a longtime WPIAL contender in Class AAA but made the move up to Class AAAA last year. The Tigers, though, still earned a postseason spot last season. They went 7-3 in Section 4-AAAA and finished their campaign 14-6 after losing to Canon-McMillan during the first round of the WPIAL playoffs.

"There's definitely a big difference going from Triple-A to Quad-A," Santeufemio said. "In Class AAA, you would always face teams that had at least five good hitters in their lineup. In Class AAAA, you usually go against lineups that have seven or eight good hitters.

"Everybody seems to have more players [than us]. We went from being the biggest Class AAA team to being one of the smallest Class AAAA teams. You can be a good team in Class AAAA and not make the playoffs.

"I know we could have made more of a run last season if we were still in Triple-A."

Santeufemio, however, isn't using realignment as an alibi.

"We don't use it as an excuse," he said. "But it's tough when you're a small school going up against big schools like Pine-Richland, Mt. Lebanon, North Allegheny and Seneca Valley."

Moon will again compete against Allderdice, Penn Hills, Pine-Richland, Shaler Area and Woodland Hills in Section 4-AAAA.

"Last year, it was us, Shaler and Pine-Richland making the playoffs," Santeufemio said. "If we wouldn't have lost to Pine-Richland that last game, we would have tied for section champs.

"On paper, those three teams should be in [the playoff hunt] again. Right now, it's too early to tell, but we should have a decent enough team to compete for a playoff spot."

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