East Xtra: Point Park picks a Plum of a baseball recruit
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Point Park coach Loren Torres says to compete nationally, you have to recruit nationally, but he'll agree that it's easier when you can pluck a recruit out of your own backyard.
Anthony Garofalo, a 6-foot-3 left-hander from Plum High School, signed with Point Park University late last month and will join the Pioneers' pitching staff in the fall. Garofalo was named the WPIAL Class AAAA pitcher of the year by the WPIAL Baseball Coaches Association after posting a 6-0 record with a 1.86 earned-run average during his senior campaign.
Torres expects Garofalo to compete for a spot in next season's starting rotation left open by graduating senior Derek Peluso.
"As it is, coming out of high school, Anthony does have the ability to impact the program right away," Torres said. "The capacity in which he impacts the program will depend on how quickly he makes the transition to college."
That transition varies from player to player, but living less than 20 miles from home should help ease Garofalo's transition.
Garofalo didn't hear from Point Park until a little before a month before his commitment. Despite interest from Seton Hill, Garofalo was leaning toward the junior college route until he heard that Point Park had interest in mid-April.
Torres and assistant coach Rocky Capobianco were in the stands for an April 25 start against Central Catholic.
"I was just happy to see someone out there watching me," Garofalo said.
He shut down Central Catholic and Plum cruised to an 8-3 victory putting the Mustangs in first place in Section 4-AAAA at that time. (They went on to share the section title with Central.)
After visiting Point Park, Garofalo was ready to make it official. He said it just felt right. Torres agreed.
"We're always recruiting what we call the full package -- student, person, player," Torres said. "Student first, person of character and then an athlete. Anthony is that complete package."
Garofalo brings a mid-80s mph fastball and complementary curveball and changeup to the Pioneers' starting rotation that combined for a 33-2 record last season and carried Point Park to its first NAIA World Series appearance since 1998.
Garofalo also brings a local presence to the ballclub. Torres' 25-man roster has an abundance of out-of-state talent -- just nine Point Park players on this past season's roster hail from high schools in the WPIAL.
"If I could be 100-percent local, I would be," Torres said. "But we never compromise, so we go after kids who are in the area that allow us to compete nationally, but if we can't land them here, then we have to go out of state.
"With our success this year I think we'll have a better draw in the area, starting with this upcoming recruiting class, which wasn't the case in the past."
Torres, a native of Puerto Rico, has pulled recruits from across the country -- even one from Ontario, Canada -- in his three years at Point Park. The one sector he hasn't reached? The local kids.
That comes with success, he said. That comes now.
"The benefit is that the local kid is playing at home, he's got the family in support, he's used to the weather so he transitions a lot better," Torres said. "And West Pennsylvania kids are tough kids.
"The Pennsylvania kids have somewhat of a football mentality. They play hard and are hard-nosed kids. They have the Steeler mentality, and I love that."
After a program-best 53-win 2012 season, Point Park is turning heads. The athletic department is also adding a junior varsity baseball team to add depth.
"Point Park is a thriving program right now," Garofalo said. "The program is raising some eyebrows."
Torres says he doesn't expect his 2012 recruiting class to exceed 12 players, and he has nine recruits already signed, including three from the Pittsburgh area -- Garofalo and Montour High School products Patrick Kennedy and John Baughman.
First Published June 14, 2012 12:00 am