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Published: April 07, 2009 11:47 pm  

HS BASEBALL PREVIEW: GI returns strong core for repeat and retribution

By Nate Beutel
Niagara Gazette

GRAND ISLAND — The Grand Island Vikings may be the reigning Niagara Frontier League champions, but they’ve still got a bittersweet taste in their mouth from last season.

That’s what happens, though, when you’re the top-seeded team in your class and you get ousted in the opening round of the playoffs.

“That one really hurt — and it still does,” junior ace Joel Klock said of last spring’s loss to upstart Cheektowaga. “We don’t want that to happen again. We plan on making a good run at it again this year.”

With Klock leading a deep stable of arms, a repeat is certainly not out of question. The all-Niagara Gazette southpaw has a good repertoire of pitches that make him one of the top hurlers in Western New York. Behind Klock in the rotation will likely be a trio of sophomores — Brian Brink, Nick Kellner and Ben Tomkins.

“I’ve got about seven or eight guys that can throw,” GI coach Dean Santorio said. “Now, I’ve just got to figure out two, three, four, five. They’re not overpowering kids, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be affective. They all bring something a little different.”

The Vikings will also be strong at the plate behind returning first team all-Niagara Gazette catcher Joe Oliverio. The senior is widely-regarded as the best power hitter in the NFL and will bat clean-up for GI.

Junior second baseman Korey Hagen will likely lead off, followed by senior outfielder Marv Pawlowski and Klock. Senior Chris Podlucky returns to the lineup, but will play shortstop this year after manning second a year ago. Tomkins and Kellner will play third and the outfield respectively with Kyle Moody also slotted for the outfield and Mike Sperrazza and Phil Lenz battling it out for first base. Brink will also play first.

“Once again, I think we have a strong lineup,” Klock said. “At least one through seven are really solid and I think the other guys are getting better.”

Rounding out GI’s roster this spring is Bob Amsdill, Nick Antonelli, Mike Karpie, Jake Killian and Robert Whalen.

“We’re pretty focused on the little things this year,” Santorio said. “If we pay particular attention to not giving other teams extra outs and our young guys come along… we’re going to be OK.”

“I’m pretty confident in this group,” Oliverio added. “We’re going to have to play tough baseball and not take any games off, but I definitely think we’ll be in contention for the league title again.”

Contact reporter Nate Beutel at 282-2311, ext. 2262.


• COACH: Dean Santorio

• KEY RETURNEES: Joel Klock (Junior, P/OF), Joe Oliverio (Senior, C), Marv Pawlowski (Senior, OF), Chris Podlucky (Senior, SS)

• QUESTION: Will the Vikings’ young arms be able to handle varsity-level competition?

• PROJECTION: GI will once again be near the top of the league standings.