Local diamond stars have made a successful jump from high school to college.
Marywood University's baseball team is putting together a solid season this spring in the Electric City.
Under the direction of veteran coach Jerry Davis, the Pacers are once again battling for a playoff spot in the always-rugged Colonial States Athletic Conference.
Last spring, Marywood set a school record for regular season wins (22) and advanced to the ECAC South Regional tournament. In addition, Davis was named CSAC Coach of the Year.
While things aren't going quite so well to this point in the current campaign, local diamond fans will be happy to know that five former high school stars are playing major roles for the Pacers in 2013.
Wallenpaupack Area's Chris Ortiz, Erik Pulkkinen, Chris Peterson and Nick DeFebo along with Steve Gaylets of Honesdale have each carved out a niche on Marywood's roster.
Heading into a busy week of NCAA Division III action, the Pacers have posted 11 wins. Coach Davis' squad is faring well at home (7-5), but struggling on the road (1-6) and at neutral sites (3-6).
Weather permitting, Marywood is slated to play five games in the next six days against the likes of Wilkes, Centenary and Penn College.
On the Diamond
When Chris Ortiz played at Paupack, several coaches stated unequivocally that he was one of the best high school catchers they'd ever seen.
Following a stellar scholastic career, Ortiz moved on to the collegiate ranks at Marywood. Now midway through his senior season, Ortiz is once again turning heads and piling up eye-popping numbers.
A 3-year starter who's majoring in special education, Chris currently leads the team in several major statistical categories.
He's batting a team-best .342 through 27 games. Ortiz owns a total of 26 hits, including one homer, a triple and three doubles. Chris has collected 15 RBIs and scored 16 runs.
In addition, Ortiz leads the Pacers in on-base percentage (.451) and has swiped five sacks in six tries.
This past weekend, Marywood's starting catcher and clean-up man banged out three hits and drove in three runs in a win Cairn College.
While Ortiz has been anchoring the defense from behind the plate, Pulkkinen is turning in a solid all-round performance.
Erik is just a freshman, but he's already ensconced himself in the starting line-up. He has made four relief pitching appearances and sports a 2.44 ERA with two saves.
Pulkkinen has been on the field for all 28 Marywood games this spring. Offensively, he's batting .244 with 20 hits and 16 runs scored.
Just last week, Erik turned in one of his best efforts of the season. Pulkkinen ripped five hits in six at-bats, driving in three runs in a twinbill sweep of PSU/Wilkes Barre.
Peterson is another frosh who appears to be making inroads for the Pacers.
A fireballing 6'4" southpaw, Chris has yet to allow an earned run coming out of Marywood's bullpen. Enemy hitters are batting just a paltry .188 against him.
DeFebo is a senior coming off a stellar season, having pitched his way onto the CSAC All Star team after recovering from several injuries.
Nick went 5-3 last spring and set a brand new school record with an eye-popping 17 strikeouts in one nine inning game.
This year, DeFebo is having trouble re-capturing that old mound magic.
Heading into this week's action, he's 0-4 with a 5.12 ERA. Nick has made three starts and has one complete game to his credit.
Gaylets is Honesdale's lone representative on Marywood's roster.
A sophomore who splits his time between the infield and outfield, Steve has appeared in 20 of the Pacers' 28 games to date.
He is batting .182 with 11 hits. Gaylets has scored three runs and driven in eight more.
Over & Out
Marywood fans are hoping their team can put together a late-season run and earn another trip to the playoffs.
The Pacers are just 4-11 in CSAC competition thus far this spring. However, Coach Davis' ballclub has five games left on the schedule before the league tournament commences.
With a solid performance down the stretch, Marywood could easily overtake both Centenary and Immaculata in the standings.
Keystone is at the top of the heap with a dazzling 25-7 overall record (13-1, CSAC).