Chagrin Falls Tigers 2022 Baseball Preview


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Chagrin Falls Tigers

Head Coach: Michael Sweeney
Years Head Coach (current school): 22nd
Record (current school): 364-194
Years Head Coach (overall): 22nd
Record (overall): 364-194

Assistant Coaches:
John Scott
John Bakalar
Justin Bargar
James Sferra

Record last season: 24-7 / 11-1
League Affiliation: Chagrin Valley Conference
Last year's playoff results: Lost in the Regional Semi Final to Hoban (state champs) 4-2

Top players returning:
2021 Awards Amongst Returning 2022 Players:
Donny Hardy – Junior OF/P – 1st team CVC - OF
Andrew Kirkpatrick – Senior C/1B/3B/P – 2nd team CVC – 1B;1st team CVC – 1B his freshmen year
Brett Vaccaro – Senior IF/P – HM CVC – IF

Returning Starters:
Andrew Kirkpatrick - 1B/P/C/3B - Senior, 6’4”, 245 lbs., L/R, Andrew will be a 4 year starter for us (assuming we would have had a season in 2020) and will play at Wittenberg next season. Andrew has been outstanding for us during the 2 seasons that he played. I look for him to have a huge season this year - both on the mound and at the plate. 2021 Stats - .281 AVG, 25 H, 6 2B, 1 HR, 31 RBI, 24 R, 28 BB. On the mound, 5-2, 1.871 ERA, 26 K, 15 BB, 33.2 IP.

Brett Vaccaro - IF/P - Senior, 5’9”, 155 lbs., R/R, Brett won the starting 3B job halfway through last season and had a lot of big hits for our team. He played a solid 3B and should take a step forward this season to pick up where he left off. 2021 Stats - .350 AVG, 21 H, 3 2B, 14 RBI, 11R, 8 BB. Brett should also help us on the mound this season. He is a very valuable player for us because he can do a little bit of everything for us.

Donny Hardy - OF/P - Junior - 6’0”, 195 lbs., R/R, Donny is a 5 tool player and a great athlete. He had a tremendous year last season as a sophomore and should be even better this season with his added strength and a year of experience. He will be a tough out in the line-up and can provide both power to drive the gaps and speed to steal a base. 2021 Stats - .374 AVG, 34 H, 4 2B, 4 3B, 20 RBI, 30 R, 14 BB, 19 SB

Returning Lettermen:
Leo Fornara – C/OF/P - Senior, 5’9”, 175 lbs., R/R, Leo came on strong at the end of last year on the offensive side and was solid all season as a pitcher. Leo will play at Mount Union next season. I look for big things from Leo this season. He will be our #1 pitcher and has the potential to dominate on the mound. 2021 Stats - .219 AVG, 7 H, 1 2B, 5 RBI, 10 R, 8 BB. On the mound, 1-1 with 1 save, 3.559 ERA, 32 K, 10 BB, 19.2 IP.

Nick Calabrese - OF - Senior, 6’, 185 lbs., R/R, Nick played in 22 games last season but struggled with a back injury and was never full go. He should be fully healthy this season and ready to roll. He should provide some power in the line-up and be a middle of the order hitter.

Top players lost:
2021 Key Player Losses
We lost 7 seniors from last season – Mikey Amendola, Charlie Greenlief, Richard Higley, Justin Lewinski, Jack McMullen, Dawson Pierce, and Will Tropp. All of those players were major contributors to the success of our team in 2021.

Jack McMullen - Lafayette - All-Ohio, All NE Ohio and conference MVP
Dawson Pierce - Marietta - All NE Ohio and 1st team all conference
Charlie Greenlief - Otterbein - 2nd team all conference
Mikey Amendola - 1st team all conference
Will Tropp - 2nd team all conference
Justin Lewinski - 2nd team all conference
Richard Higley - HM all conference

New impact players:
Andrew Bazzone - 1B/OF/P - Senior, 5’11”, 210 lbs., L/L, Andrew has tremendous power. The ball has a different sound when it comes off of his bat. Andrew is going to surprise some people and could help make this offense scary.

Gavin Stevens - IF/P - Junior - 5’10”, 140 lbs., L/R, Gavin should be one of our infield starters and help us on the mound. Gavin has put a lot of work into baseball over the past year and should have a very good season.

Calvin Hill - OF/P - Senior - 6’, 155 lbs., R/R, Calvin is playing again after taking a couple of years off. He is coming off of an injury so his pitching status is unknown. However, he should give us a lift offensively and if healthy a much needed arm. Could be a huge help to our team.

Drew Mergenhagen – 2B/C/P - Junior – 5’11”, 165 lbs, R/R, Drew is a smart player who will be a solid player for us this season. I think Drew will improve tremendously throughout the season once he gains confidence and gets Varsity experience.

Will Graham – OF/P – Sophomore - 5’11”, 155 lbs, R/R, Will has the potential to be a very good player. He will give us depth on the mound as a starter and also could become a very good hitter once he gains Varsity experience.

Sven Nielsen – 1B/P – Sophomore - 6’, 160 lbs, R/R, Sven will see plenty of time at 1B. Sven will give us depth on the mound and he, like many of our players, should get better and better as the season goes on.

Final Comments:
Players to Watch:
I think Andrew Kirkpatrick and Donny Hardy will have big years. They are well known names throughout baseball circles. However, watch out for Leo Fornara, Brett Vaccaro and Nick Calabrese. Calvin Hill is a talented player who could be a sleeper.

Team Strengths:
Baseball IQ

Team Weaknesses:
Overall Depth
Varsity Experience

This will be an interesting year. We have quite a few players with experience coming back, but also will have quite a few players who don’t have any experience at all. We also have experienced players playing new positions. We have our #3 and #4 pitchers coming back (Andrew Kirkpatrick and Leo Fornara) which will help out quite a bit as they will be our #1 and #2 this year. However, we do not have any experience on the mound past those two. We are also very limited with our depth. We will have 11 players on Varsity so our defensive line-up will change quite a bit depending on who is on the mound. I do think it will take some time for us to gel as a team, but I do think we have potential to once again be a very good team. I think it will depend on our pitching depth, our ability to stay healthy and also our ability to adjust defensively to the many different line-ups we will put on the field.

2022 Ohio Varsity Questions
1. Heading into the 2022 season, describe your outlook for the season based on what you have returning and what you've seen out of your newcomer early in the preseason.
This is probably the toughest team I have had to project in a long time. I love the way our team is working in practice. They are smart and want to be good. Sometimes, I feel they are almost trying too hard. Basically, it means that it isn’t pretty sometimes. As I said above, I think it may take time for us to play the kind of baseball we are used to at Chagrin Falls. We have some returning players in new positions and newcomers at the other positions. I think we could have a deep hitting line-up. I know that we will have two very good pitchers at the top of the rotation. I think once our guys relax and get some game experience under their belts, we will be ok.
2. Overall, looking at what you return from 2021 and what you've added to the varsity squad, what are your expectations for the 2022 season?
Honestly, I am not sure. Depends on the day. There are days that I think we can be pretty good and there are days I am not sure what we can be. I do know that this team has a tremendous work ethic and they want to be good. I really do think when we relax and gain confidence, we can do some pretty good things.
3. What are the biggest challenges you face this spring and how will you overcome them?
I think our biggest challenge is the lack of depth and the way our defense will have to move around based on who is pitching. We can’t afford any injuries. I am not sure how to avoid injuries. I do think the more we practice and the more we play the more comfortable we will get with all of the defensive changes. Getting a chance to practice and scrimmage next week in Myrtle Beach will be huge for this team. We need as much practice/game experience outside on a field as we can get. I know our guys will put the time in to get better at each position they play.

4. What are your team strengths and why?
Our captains along with some of the other guys provide tremendous leadership. I ask a lot out of my players as far as being ready for practice, getting things set up and making sure we have all the equipment out. This is never an issue. Our leaders lead by voice and by example. The leadership has been outstanding so far and I would expect it to continue through the season. We also have an extremely intelligent team. Although we only have 22 players in the program, the GPA of all 22 players averages a 3.95 which is incredible. This also translates to the field which is why I think we have the ability to move the players around to different positions. I think they can handle it and the players are actually embracing the challenge.

5. What must happen in order for your team to be successful this season?
As I have stated before, we need to stay healthy and we need to play. The more this team plays, the better we will get. I know that probably sounds pretty obvious, but it is the truth. We need to see live situations outside on a field.
6. Use this area to provide a quote on your key players and what they bring to the table this season. Please include at least three players, with stats/awards from previous years, if applicable, and a quote on your expectation for them. You can provide a quote on every player in the lineup if you'd like.

This is probably the order I would talk about the players. You can look back up top for my quotes about the players.
Andrew Kirkpatrick - Wittenberg
Leo Fornara - Mount Union
Brett Vaccaro
Donny Hardy
Nick Calabrese