It may not have been a typically formidable year for the Ches-Mont League, but Sun Valley (5-15, 5-14) nonetheless struggled through the league.
That record is dragged down, though, by a few near misses. They were 1-3 in one-run games and couldn’t close the deal in a 3-1 loss to Coatesville, which will represent District One in the PIAA Class AAAA tournament.
The departures are hefty for Sun Valley. They’ll have to replace their three top hitters in Jake Burrell (.404 average, 11 extra-base hits), Antonio Pagano (.411 average, team-high 16 RBIs) and Mario Farnell (.386 average, eight extra-base hits, 13 RBIs). For a team already lacking lineup depth, the loss of the 3-4-5 core of the batting order is a big blow.
Next year’s team will be built around C.J. Pruitt. The staff ace this season, Pruitt went 3-3 with a save, giving up just seven earned runs in 47 innings for a 1.04 ERA. He had a hand in 80 percent of the team’s wins. The fact that he gave up 20 unearned runs – almost one every two innings on the mound – indicate that he didn’t get much helps from his fielders. The kicker is that Pruitt is also the team’s top catcher, and the return of back-up catcher Mike Schnarrs means that the Vanguards retain their first-choice battery for next season.
There’s no two ways about it: Younger players will have to mature quickly for the Vanguards next season. There are those with some potential. Ryan Burton and Matt Skwirut both got in some innings on the mound this season. Cody Herestofa contributed offensively, improving as the season went on (highlighted by a three-hit, two-RBI day in the win over Downingtown East).
There are some pieces in place. Especially with a bona fide ace such as Pruitt, the gap may not be as wide as the Vanguards’ record indicates, particularly if they can shore up some problem areas like team defense.