For the ninth time in the last 10 years, Lilly Conrad Chiropractic/American Legion will be the defending champion of the Altoona Greater City Baseball League.
The story, like it has been for this unprecedented run of sustained success, is the year-in, year-out return of the team's core of shortstop Brandon Ickes, outfielder Brent Matish, outfielder Ryan Ickes, first baseman Cody Gallaher, outfielder Brent Davison and third baseman Lucas McCoy.
This group is back for another run in 2013, and Lilly once again is the favorite to win another championship.
"We've been very lucky to have the core group together," former manager and current scorekeeper and statistician for Lilly, Ron Davison, said. "Brandon Ickes and Brent Matish both started in 2003. Ryan [Ickes] started in 2004. Gallaher came about eight years ago, and Brent [Davison] began full time in 2006 but had been on the roster on and off since he was in high school. Lucas has been here for five or six years now. It's a nice core of guys playing."
A key addition Lilly Conrad made was pitcher Ben Watkins. Watkins excelled for Lilly before but left after getting drafted in the 40th round by the New York Yankees in the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft. Third baseman Lucas McCoy will take over the third base coaching duties from Ron Davison this season.
There are only two significant changes for the 2013 campaign. One is the addition of two new teams in Crown Jewel/Cox Refract, coached by Bill Dicken, and Mountainview Archery, managed by Dale Snyder. The other change is in the playoff format. This year, the fourth- and fifth-place teams will play a one-game wild card playoff. The winner will advance to play the top-seeded team, while the second- and third-place teams will play in best-of-3 series.
"We'll be doing a one game playoff much like one the MLB began using last year," league president and third baseman for JnD Guns, Brian Farabaugh, said.
The AAABA League had the most teams playing in its league in its long history last season with six. This season, however, the league is back down to four teams, with the Railbirds, Ketrow Insurance, Johnston Realty and a new sponsor for the former Red Bull entry, Wise Trailer Sales.
With the loss of two teams, each AAABA team will play a 21-game schedule, while playing each City League team once, playing each other three times and playing all six AAABA teams in Johnstown once. Last year was the first year the league used a playoff system to decide who would represent its league in the AAABA Regional tournament, and this year will be no different. The playoffs will begin on July 18, and the AAABA regional tournament begins July 26.
John Austin, the long-time Altoona AAABA League president, is excited for the league to begin play on May 29.
"Unfortunately, we lost two teams, but we have four really good teams with four good coaches," Austin said. "It should be a very interesting season."
Jeff Miller is back for another year managing Wise Trailer Sales, and the team returns all but three players. Miller's team and Johnston Realty are expected to be at the top of the Altoona AAABA League.
"I think Johnston should be the team to beat," Miller said. "We have a nice mix of younger guys and veterans, and that should make us good. Two of our greatest strengths are our team speed and pitching. The Railbirds are a year better, and I know [manager] Phil Sipes will have Ketrow playing better. It should be a very competitive league."
Johnston's Mel Curtis tossed bouquets back at Wise Trailer Sales.
"Every time we play Jeff's team, it's a battle," Curtis said. "They have a lot of phenomenal players."
Crown Jewel/Cox Refract
Coach: Bill Dicken
Newcomers: Bill Dicken, p/2b; Shawn Moyer, p/inf/of; Wes Stoudnour, of/inf/p; Bryan Plummer, p/1b; Tyler Ickes, inf/of/p; Zach Cox, inf/p; Chad Walter, 3b/1b; Andy Christ, inf/p; Luke Weber, 2b/of/p; Joe Holsinger, c; Matt Walter, inf/of/p; Jim Coleman, ss; Brian Weyandt, 2b/of; Will Grace, 3b/of; Tom Coleman, p; Kevin Walter, 2b/c; Andrew Walter, of; Brendan Perretta, of; Brandon McNelis, p/2b; Andy Gardill, of; Derick Musselman, of; Tyler Claar, inf/of
Outlook: "If we get most of the guys at the games we should challenge for a playoff spot.''
Team to beat: None
Coach: Matt Ballos and Brian Farabaugh.
Returning players: Andy Bagley, cf; Matt Ballos, p/inf; Justin Claar, 2b; Justin David, 1b; Nate Detwiler, inf/p; Brian Farabaugh, 3b/p; Josh Farabaugh, of; Tom Gibney, inf; Andy Glass, inf; Courtney Grove, of; Jarrod Klausman, 1b/of, Jordan Klausman, inf/of; Mark Lucas, of; Matt McCamley, of; Troy Pincherri, c; Ryan Pollicino, p; Shane Suter, p; Mason Watson, of/p
Newcomers: Chris Carter, of; D.J. Gibson, of; Chad Huffman p/inf; Jerrell Jackson, of; Chooch McDonald, p; Tyler Sell, p; Jake Steinely, 1b; Mac Watson, c/inf
Outlook: "We should have a team that will compete for a championship like we have the past few years."
Teams to beat: Lilly, ProActive
Lilly Conrad Chiropractic/American Legion
Coaches: Ron Davison and Lucas McCoy.
Returning players: Matt Aungst, p; Gregg Bandzuh, p; Brandon Ickes, ss; Cody Gallaher, 1b; Shane Hartline, p; Paul Holberg, p; Lucas McCoy, 3b; Brent Matish, of; Ian Olsavsky, p/1b; Brock Porter, c; Zach Stere, p; Brandon Tipton, p; Brent Davison, of; Matt Skoner, p; Joe Shrift, p; Alex Martin, 2b; Chad McCoy c
Newcomers: Landon Sinclair, p; Nick Lassak, p/of; Tony Milanesi, p; Ben Watkins, p; Steve Paskowski, of
Outlook: "I look for us to be in the mix again. We basically have everyone back and added a few guys. It should be a battle to the end of the season.'
Team to beat: "Anybody has a chance."
Coach: Dale Snyder
Newcomers: Nate Clancy, of; Shawn Conrad, p/inf; Josh Ebersole, of; Collin Elliott, p/inf; Carl Fabinyl, p/of; Jim Harshberger, 1b; Ryan Harshberger, inf; Harry Hartim, of; Alex Marchi, p/inf; Eric Miller, p/inf; Damian Lascoli, c/p; Nick Smith, p/inf; Chad Koch, of; Ken Snyder, c/of; Will Snyder, c/inf; Donny Stock, p/inf; Tyler Sweeney, p/inf; Anthony Williams, inf
Outlook: "We're building a brand new team from scratch, but we have a lot of talent."
Teams to beat: Lilly, ProActive
Coach: Tom Smith
Returning players: Mason Hershey, c/inf; Jay Baker, of/inf; Mark Saxman, p; R.J. Barnard, inf; Tyler Stiffler, inf; Vince Nedimyer, c; Andy Lytle, p/inf; Jimmy Clancy, of; Jake Hargreaves, 3b; Matt Hershey, of; Tyler Neff, p/of; Sean Gority, p/ss; Ryan Clouse, p; Tom Smith, p/1b; John Wilson, of; Brent Milliron, p; Andy Smithmyer, p; John Snyder, of
Newcomers: Matt Brooks p; Mike Godissart, p
Outlook: "We want to try to to win a title."
Team to beat: Lilly
Coach: Jared Pufka
Returning players: Jared Pufka, 2b; Ryan Baranik, 1b; Matt Cushion, of; Buddy Durbin, of; Tony Lonero, of; Eric Bridenbaugh, of; Matt Riley, of/p; Matt Zeak, of/p/1b; Brandon Marasco, c/p/of; Steve Holtz, inf; Chris Tromm, inf/p; Tim Eck, inf/p/of; Chris Brennamen, of/p; Jarrod Prugar, p/of; Jaime Levinson, p/inf
Newcomers: Todd Johnson, p; Nick Petteneti, p/of; Jim McGough, 1b/of; Mark Biem, of; Joe Zeak, of; David Guyer, of; Matt Kantoski, 3b/of; Jeremy Vogel, of; Nate Sanders, inf/of; Cody Grace, inf; Travis Walkup, of
Outlook: "We're glad to be able to play baseball. Hopefully, we'll be able to get into the fourth or fifth spot and make the playoffs."
Team to beat: "Anyone can win."
Coach: Mel Curtis
Returning players: Luke Curtis, p; Mark Curtis, p; Dante DeSantis, p; Mike Marcinko, ss; Jake Belinda, util; Parker Watson, p/inf; Garrett Peterson, p; Jake Weibley, of; Braedon Pennington, p/of; Chad Steegle, p/of; Justin Hoffman, p; Ty Zimmerman, inf; Anthony Lombardo, c/inf; Josh Foster, p; Matt Hample, p; Jason Costa, c/1b; Alec Lytle, p; Caleb Pepperday, p; Derek Danver, inf; Ryan Karstetter, inf; Chrs Sinisi, inf
Newcomers: Justin Taylor, p/inf; Cody Doran, of; Ryan Hill, c; Jordan Perretta inf; Tim Scholly, p; Brandon Myers, of; John Shaffer, 1b; Tanner Lamb, p; Mike Finlan, p; Cal Schneider, p; Ryan Dyke, inf, Clyde McCallister, dh/inf
Outlook: "We're back down to just four teams. Wise Trailer Sales has a lot of players back. Railbirds and Ketrow will be better."
Team to beat: "Lilly has been so dominant for so long. JnD has a great roster as well."
Coach: Phil Sipes
Returning players: Josh Adams, of; Casey Hamilton, inf; Derek Frye, of; Jared Keller, inf; Jordan Fuller, p; Ryan Slagenweit, of; Tyler Osterhout, c/of; Tyson Steele, of/p
Newcomers: Tyler Sipes, inf; Josh Helsel, of; Cody Henderson, inf; Eric Miller, inf; Reid Miller, c; Ryan Waltz, p; Corey Sell, of/p; Dylan Conrad, c; Dom Viduya, p; Sean Thompson, p/1b/of; Shane Hoover, inf; Jaret Berardinelli, inf; Austin McMonagle, inf/of/p; Jason Douglas, 1b/p; Thayne Russell, of; Tanner Claar, of; Mike McCall, 1b.
Outlook: "We're totally rebuilding the roster. We only have seven returning players from last year. We'll have a young roster with talented kids, but this will be the first time competing against college-aged kids."
Teams to beat: Lilly, JnD Guns and ProActive
Coach: Victor Curfman
Returning players: Chris Curfman, inf/p; Andy Crum, p/1b/of; Garrett England, of/p; Eric Grace, p/1b; Kasy Hamm, c/inf/p; Josh Corle, inf; J.D. Weyant, of/inf/p; Zach Croft, p/1b; J.D. Green, of/p; Kyle Schoen, c; Cam Malone, of/inf; Judd Bussard, p/inf; Cody Krepps, inf
Newcomers: Jordan Swope, inf/p; Ryan Creps, inf/of; Rodney Patterson, p; Ryan Robinette, p; Issac Stern, inf/of; Luke Stultz, c/inf
Outlook: "We're expecting to see a lot of improvement and growth from last year. Toward the end of last season, we showed we belong."
Teams to beat: Lilly, ProActive (City League); Wise Trailer Sales (AAABA)
Wise Trailer Sales
Coach: Jeff Miller
Returning players: Seth Wagner, p; Nick Carothers, inf; Evan Appleby, inf; Darian Herncane, of; Kyle Morrow, c/of; Jordan DeLuca, of; Nathan Pope, util; Jacob Stern, inf; Wyatt Belinda, inf; Ben Wyland, p; Brett Hileman, p/inf; Matt Kurelja, 1b; Brock Goodling, p; Zach Moereshbacher, p; Nate Negri, inf; Matt Fry, inf; Brian Laurito, c; Elliott Chamberlain, p; Cody Heane, p; Shane Regal, c; Jextin Pugh, p/of; Jared Baird, p; Spencer Bivens, p; Dan Frye, of/p; Robert Nicodemus, p; David Ormsby, p; Josh Bonatesta, of; Cole Boozel, inf/p.
Newcomers: Chad Zurat, p; Cam Kyle, p; Clint Roche, inf
Outlook: "We've got a very nice team coming back so we expect to be competitive."
Team to beat: Lilly