Ridgway baseball recognizes team with banquet

Ridgway baseball was honored with a banquet Sunday afternoon at Aiello Cafe in Ridgway. Ridgway senior Ben Jaques was honored with the scholar-athlete award, finishing with a 4.1 GPA. Varsity head coach Mark Morelli spoke to the team about the close calls the Elkers had this season, noting the team had a chance to win in many games this season and with four more wins, Ridgway could have been preparing for the playoffs with an 8-11 record. "If you look over and reflect, we lost three games by one or two runs, we were in four other games where we were either tied, winning the game or down by two runs in the fourth inning only to come up a key hit short of winning the game," Morelli said. "That is seven games that could have went either way, if we won four of those seven, we’d be 8-11 and preparing for the playoffs right now. But again, you are what you are, and we can’t change things."Morelli said there was a great amount of frustration on everyone's part at the end of the season. "A 4-15 record normally spells disaster, normally there are all kinds of problems yet I don’t think it was so much problems as it was frustration, everyone sitting in this room was frustrated, parents, players and coaches," Morelli said. "None of us expected this type of a season, it seemed like our team was hit with a plague that had no cure and it was not just one or two players but the entire team, we just could not hit on a consistent basis throughout the entire season, it was a major challenge that we as coaches tried to remedy but in the end it is what it is and there was nothing anyone could do."Morelli said the coaches and parents should be proud of the baseball players. "If there was a silver lining to it all, the parents sitting here [Sunday] should be as proud of your sons as we are as coaches, we had 15 players showing up even as the season was winding down. That told us the desire to play was still there, the effort to complete was still there. The team stayed together, that is also a good nod towards our coaching staff that were able to keep their interest and keep them motivated."Morelli said the team's defense was strong."Despite our hitting woes, our defense was as good as any in the league, we work on and stress fundamentals, the time dedicated to defense was reflected on the field late in the season with our two wins," Morelli said.Team highlights of the season included going down to Altoona to play in the Altoona Curve Tournament, the team's first two games this season. Ridgway had 23 players on the team at the end of the season. The Elkers had 10 seniors which are Alex Dickant, Jesse Gardner, Ben Jaques, Ricky Jay Javier, Kevin Kilhoffer, Bob Marchenko, Derek Mattiuz, D.J. Skraba, Trevor Sheasley and Lou Stilwell. The team had four juniors which are Slade Horner, Ryan McClelland, Aaron Sorge and Jay Launer. The seven sophomores include JoJo Jaques, Josh Mitchell, Zac McKnight, Evan Nourse, Jesse Reynolds, Sam Roselli and Andrew Wolff.Mike Popson and Josh Braley were freshmen in the program this season. Junior varsity coach Justin Burkhouse spoke of the team's improvement at the end of the season, citing a tie against St. Marys in the team's final few games. Both Morelli and Burkhouse encouraged the students to get their friends to come out for the team next season with the large group of seniors that are graduating. Morelli recognized all of the booster club members for all of their work this season along with athletic director Sandi Hanes. Those who helped with the boosters are Kim Jaques, Barb Popson, Kris Roselli and Theresa Mitchell. In addition, Jane Skraba and Donna Kilhoffer were both recognized for being four-year officers with graduating baseball players. Assistant coach and bus driver Gerry Stenta was recognized. "He was very helpful as a bench coach, we are glad to have him around." Morelli said. Morelli recognized Paul Stilwell for helping to obtain usage of the Motion Control facility and Aiello Cafe for having the banquet on a Sunday. Assistant coaches Joe Luchs, Joe LaBenne and Burkhouse were recognized. Morelli spoke of Luchs and his responsibilites. "Joe Luchs has been with me for three years now, works with the outfielders, pitches, and pitches and pitches batting practice, coaches third base, not exactly an easy thing to do. He's very dedicated, centers his job around baseball and helps coach LaBenne and I out when we can’t make it to ride the bus." This was LaBenne's first year on the coaching staff. "Joe LaBenne, what an addition to our staff, worked with the pitchers, a very knowledgeable and patient coach," Morelli said. "Our kids immediately bonded with him and listened to what he had to say. He knows the game and knows how to get his points across, we are fortunate to have him as part of our program."Morelli spoke of Burkhouse's patience. "He really likes and enjoys working with the kids on the JV level," Morelli said. "Every week he lets me know who is doing well and who has improved."Morelli is looking forward to the next season and hopes to have greater depth as a team and with the pitching staff.