East Xtra: As usual, St. Johns battling for first place in Federation League

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After coming close a few times, including a runner-up finish in 2012, St. Johns-Leftys won the National Amateur Baseball Federation World Series championship last season.

But the Saints aren't content resting on their laurels this season.

With a bid to the national tournament already secured as the defending champion, St. Johns is preparing for the long haul by working in its new talent into the already existing core.

"It's still the same here because the guys we have are mostly the same," said Tom McCarthy, a Plum native who has been the Saints manager for more than 30 years. "We have the same core six to seven guys and we try to add here and there. It's always a tricky situation to see how they fit in, especially with the core guys."

The core for the Saints, who have won Greater Pittsburgh Federation League titles for the past eight consecutive seasons and 12 of the past 14, consists of outfielder/assistant coach Rick Krist, designated hitter Jim Jaskowski, catcher Rich Satcho, outfielder/infielder Greg Stokes, outfielder Andy Blackwell and first baseman Nate Thimons. Krist is dealing with a knee injury that has limited him to just one game this season.

The team also has many other stars who have been a part of St. Johns' dominant run.

Pitcher Greg Frederick and third baseman Jim Pasquine were the co-MVPs of the NABF World Series and they return to lead the staff and offense, respectively.

Frederick gave up just one run in two starts and threw a complete game in the Saints' championship game win. He finished last season 13-0 with an ERA of less than 1.50.

Pasquine hit .500 in six games during the national tournament. He left Washington & Jefferson College as the team's all-time batting average leader at .432.

"[Pasquine] is as good a player as we have in this area," McCarthy said.

In addition to Frederick and Pasquine, who also pitches, the team returns hurlers Corry Ryan, Brian Warheit, Andrew Rafalski and Rick Raraigh from last season's title team.

Additionally, the team has added two veteran pitchers in John Bachman, a Shaler Area alumnus who recently moved back into the area, and Nate Buttenfield of North Hills.

McCarthy is slowly building his pitchers' workload, getting them ready for the end of the season in August.

"We do it a little bit differently than most teams," McCarthy said. "We'll have one pitcher slotted for four innings, then another to go four or we'll have three pitchers each throw three innings. We have a blueprint in place coming into a game and stick to it. When you have quality guys like we do, it's easier that way.

"As the season progresses, we'll start to stretch them out."

Through Tuesday, St. Johns lost once and tied once in its first eight games. That's the same amount of losses and ties the Saints had all of last season.

But as the defending national champions, the Saints will be judged on their final result at the NABF World Series and McCarthy is preparing his team for what lies ahead.

"We have the automatic bid, but we can't take anything for granted," he said. "Some of the teams in our league are the same caliber as the teams you see at regional or the national tournaments. We just have to take care of our business and continue to get better."

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