Wallenpaupack Area's varsity baseball team is hoping for a repeat on last year's success
Last spring turned out to be a season for the local history books.
Finishing with an 18-3 overall record, the Wallenpaupack Area varsity baseball team seized the District Two 5A crown and took everyone on a wild ride that culminated with a run into the state tournament’s final four.
Paupack's pitching staff played a major role in that success, but with graduation, so went the bullpen. Although the Buckhorns are eager to retain their title, doing so will mean a major shift in how they go about their business.
“We have a big target on our back,” said senior Max Alessi, who led the club in extra base hits last year.
“We have a whole new bullpen but we’re returning a strong core of hitters in our line-up. We have power and speed.”
Paupack’s bats peaked during the playoffs last spring. While they lost their one of their most potent bats to graduation, the Bucks bring back some serious offensive power.
Returning is senior Tyler Kirsten who paced the team with 29 hits and closed with a .408 average. Second in runs scored, Kirsten crossed the plate 19 times.
Derrick Vosburg was crucial in manufacturing runs as well. The slugging sophomore collected 18 RBIs. Now a junior, Vosburg returns looking to boost that number, as well as his 25-hit tally.
Alessi was tied for third with 20 hits last season and wraps up the top sluggers that saw action in all 21 of Paupack's games last year.
Senior Adam Sands and sophomore Izaiah Santiago both played in 17 games and came on strong late in the year. Sands batted for .316 while Santiago ended last season at .304.
“We have to have a better season than last year if we want to get back to PNC Field,” Santiago stated.
A slew of southpaws slithered into the line-up this season to make up the bulk of the Paupack pitching staff.
Vosburg, Sands, and Santiago will all see time on the mound along with Kirsten, a righty. Much like last season, the Buckhorns have options, and Head Coach Todd Schmalzle feels confident his crew can get the job done.
“Vosburg has a nice breaking ball and is throwing in the low to mid 80s,” said Coach Schmalzle
“Santiago hasn’t pitched much for us at the high school level but has been throwing since he was in Little League and has seen a ton of action in travel ball. Sands is crafty. He’s got a great slider and makes up for speed with accuracy and the ability to pound the strike zone.”
Kirsten saw a few innings last season and knew he’s be called upon to deliver pitches this year. He’ll likely reside at shortstop this year when not on the hill.
Seniors Zach Maldacker and Ty Holbert could see time on the mound as well. Both have experience from their younger days that Schmalzle hopes to utilize.
Add to the mix another veteran from JV play, junior Anthony Church, and the Buckhorns have a sizable crew to take into battle.
Alessi behind the plate and Kirsten at short are the only two solid bets as far as defensive certainty.
Almost certainly Santiago will move to center with Maldacker and junior Tom McCormick on the flanks.
The infield deck could be shuffled a lot through the year depending on the situation and who’s on the mound.
Both Vosburg and Sands are solid candidates for first base. Junior Jake Liddy could contend with Holbert for time at second, while Holbert and Church might be exchanging shifts in the hot corner.
There are many younger players in the mix as well and it’s hoped those veterans that were on the roster last year will impart their experiences on those younger players.
“We’re a close team and we all get along well,” said Maldacker. “We’re competitive and I think that’s good. It’ll push us to be better. But, it’s a fun group, too.”
On the Card
Weather permitting, Lackawanna League play should commence on April 2 when Paupack travels to Scranton Prep.
The Bucks welcome Scranton on April 5 and then venture to Varden for an 11 a.m. tangle on April 7 with Western Wayne before shuffling off to Blue Ridge on April 10.
Paupack is home on April 14 for a non-league match-up against East Stroudsburg North before squaring off with North Pocono in their three-game series.
North Pocono claimed the AAA Title in 2016, before reclassification put them into 5A ball last year.
The Trojans were bounced by Crestwood after eight innings in the semis last year. Coach Brian Jardine welcomes back a roster with an intact pitching staff and less just three starters in the field.
District-wide, these may be the three regular season games not to miss.
The Trojans visit the shores of the Big Lake on April 16 then welcome the Buckhorns on the 19th. Both clubs are back at Paupack on the 21st for an 11 a.m. showdown, wrapping up the first half of the season.
Unless noted, first pitch for all other games is slated for 4:30 p.m.