In a lot of ways, the Lions’ 2013 season was defined by what they didn’t get from their seniors. All-Catholic caliber players like Bob Ieradi (limited to just 25 at-bats, albeit a .583 average) and Mark Onimus (just two innings pitched) missed the bulk of the season for a variety of reasons and had a fraction of the impact manager John Grossi had counted on prior to the season.
That adversity, though, will pay dividends down the road. There aren’t many teams in the county that return a pitching staff with the type of experience and upside as the Lions. The combined record of 6-7 posted by John Banes, Will Latcham and Chris Fusaro this season doesn’t jump off the page. But when you consider the depth and toughness of that division of the Catholic League and the fact that that’s two juniors and a sophomore (Fusaro), it’s pretty impressive.
Latcham emerged as a workhorse, throwing 47.1 innings with 2.66 ERA, while Fusaro posted a 2.18 ERA in 25.2 innings. They should combined for a really good 1-2 punch next season, and Banes could emerge as the late-inning option next year that Ieradi could’ve been this year with a full season under his belt.
Part of the reason a system like that could work is the fact that while Banes unquestionably inherits the starting shortstop position next season, he’ll have a more-than-capable backup in sophomore Colin McGuire. McGuire, who played mostly second base and hit near the bottom of the order, was named a Carpenter Cup backup thanks in large part to poise beyond his years.
The lineup also retains a fair amount of pop. Chris Salvey was a doubles machine in his sophomore year, leading the team with seven in the doubles-friendly confines of O’Hara’s park; he’ll have to take strides defensively at first base, though, or be confined to the designated-hitter role with someone like Nolan Cummings playing first. A boon to the pitching staff and the lineup is the return of Dan Dwyer, who showed proficiency behind the plate in both capacities as a junior.
There will certainly be losses. In addition the “what-ifs” of seasons from Ieradi and Onimus, Nick Donovan leaves after pitching some big innings this year, while outfielder Matt Masi and DH Scott Grinnan are big cogs in the lineup.
But what returns for the Lions far outweighs the departures, and the future certainly looks bright.