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Kowalo Back to Lead Park Baseball Team

March 22, 2013
By RICK THORP , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING - ''From start to finish.''

That's the motto adopted by this season's Wheeling Park baseball team.

''We're going to start strong right out of the box,'' second-year Patriots coach Mike McLeod said. ''We'll be ready to go.

''Our expectations are high and everyone is working hard to meet them.''

The 2012 season ended bitterly for the Patriots with a loss to John Marshall in the sectional tournament at Brooke. McLeod said the players want to badly erase those memories.

''At the end of last year we were playing really good baseball,'' he said. ''We had a bad taste in our mouth and we're eager to get it out this year.''

To do that, McLeod said he'll be counting on an experienced group of seniors, led by Andrew Kowalo.

Kowalo, who McLeod said is garnering plenty of collegiate looks, will again serve as shortstop and the Patriots ace on the mound.

''He's kind of going to be our Superman,'' McLeod said. ''We're going to go as he goes.''

Kowalo will try to ease the burden of the loss of a talented 2012 graduating class. Included in that group were, among others, Cameron Amend and Kyler Fitzpatrick, both now at West Liberty, and J.R. Pyles, who is playing for Terry Edwards at Wheeling Jesuit.

Other seniors on the 18-man varsity roster are Trevor Stewart (1B-P), Julian Figaretti (IF), Jesse Hartley (3B), Ethan Jacobs (P-OF) and Josh Varner (P).

The juniors are John Massey (IF), James Nemo (OF), Matthew Hackathorn (C-3B), Grove Calvert (OF), Eric Banks (OF), Justice Jackson (P-1B), Nathan Hardman (IF) , Eric Crow (P-IF), Matthew Brooks (P-3B) and Eric McCave (P-1B).

Banks, a newcomer to the squad, is known for his speed on the football. McLeod hopes it translates to the diamond.

''He'll be up near the top of the lineup,'' McLeod said. ''With his speed that should put a lot of pressure on opposing defenses.''

Michael Grove (P-IF) and Chalmer Moffett (P-IF) are the sophomores.

''We'll be pretty strong up the middle and our pitching will have to keep us in some games,'' McLeod said, noting the offense will need to come along.

''If you play defense and pitch well ... they say defense wins championships.''

In addition to Kowalo, Jackson, Grove, Jacobs and Stewart should see most of the time on the mound.

''He's really grown and blossomed,'' McLeod said of Grove, who had some stellar outings last season as a freshman.

McLeod is assisted by Brad Guckert, Philip Bledsoe and Darryl Johnson.

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