Albion looks to fill diamond holes

By Mike Wertman, Sports Writer Posted 23 March 2015 at 12:00 am

Purple Eagles prep to defend league, sectional titles

Photo by Mike Wertman – Getting set to lead defending champion Albion into the upcoming Niagara-Orleans League baseball season are these Purple Eagle veterans. From left are Aaron Burnside, Austin Loyd, Trey Hart and Jason Downs.

Taking aim at extending a string of league and sectional title campaigns, Albion is prepping for the upcoming baseball season looking to fill several key holes in the middle of the lineup.

Albion, which captured a third straight Niagara-Orleans League title (six of the last seven) and a third sectional crown in four years last spring, returns a good nucleus including senior pitcher/outfielder Austin Loyd, senior infielder/outfielder Aaron Burnside, senior third baseball Dominic DiCureia, junior Trey Hart, who is making the switch from centerfield to catcher, and junior pitcher/outfielder/infielder Jason Downs.

Loyd, Hart and Burnside all earned second team N-O All-League honors and Downs was an honorable mention selection for Albion which claimed the title with a 13-1 record.

However, the Purple Eagles did suffer some major losses to graduation including four year starting catcher John Warne, three year starting pitcher/shortstop Connor Barleben and two year starting first baseman Steven Stauss. All three earned first team N-O All-League honors. In addition, Warne and Barleben, who are now teammates at Genesee Community College, both earned All-Western New York and All-State honors.

“We lost some impact players but I’m pretty confident,” said Albion Coach Bruce Blanchard. “We have some experience and I like our chances with our pitching. We know the competition in the league will be stiff so we’ll have to do the little things and hopefully our kids will step up.”

The Purple Eagles roster also includes seniors Matt Howell (outfield/pitcher), Andy Ashworth (first base/pitcher), David Stillwell (outfield) and Gary Moore (DH, first base) who was injured last year, along with juniors Evan Pappalardo (pitcher/outfield/infield), Kyle Smith (pitcher/catcher), Brady Meakin (infield), Jared Fearby (infield) and Randy Elbacker (outfield).

“We lost a lot of power with the kids who graduated but we will be OK,” said Blanchard. “Pitching should be one of our strengths and our defense should be OK. The key will be to get some guys to step up and hit.”

Weather permitting, the Purple Eagles have half a dozen non league contests scheduled before opening defense of their N-O title at Wilson on April 10.

Albion’s Schedule

March 27 – at St. Mary’s of Lancaster, 4:45 p.m.
March 30 – at Lew-Port, 11 a.m.
April – Kenmore, 5 p.m.
April 2 – Depew, 4:30 p.m.
April 6 – North Tonawanda, 4:30 p.m.
April 7 – at Niagara Falls, 4:45 p.m.
April 10 – at Wilson, 4:45 p.m.
April 13 – at Medina ,4:45 p.m.
April 15 – Newfane, 4:45 p.m.
April 17 – at CSAT, 4:45 p.m.
April 20 – Roy-Hart, 4:45 p.m.
April 22 – at Barker, 4:45 p.m.
April 24 – Akron, 4:45 p.m.
April 29 – Wilson, 4:45 p.m.
May 1 – Medina, 4:45
May 4 – at Newfane, 4:45 p.m.
May 6 – CSAT, 4:45 p.m.
May 8 – at Roy-Hart, 4:45 p.m.
May 11 – Barker, 4:45 p.m.
May 12 – Canisius, 4:45 p.m.
May 13 – at Akron, 4:45 p.m.
May 15 – at Aquinas, 4:45 p.m.
May 16 – at Niagara Falls, 12 p.m.