By Ted Waddell
MONTICELLO “I’m a National League guy, so I like to have roles for everybody a closer, a hole guy and keeping a few more pitchers than normal high school teams, because I like to shorten the game if I can,” said Coach Mike Marra, who is in his first year of guiding the Monticello Panthers varsity baseball team.
“We’ve got seven guys who can pitch out of the 18 [on the roster],” he added. “That’s the plan and we’ll see how it shakes out.”
According to Marra, Patrick Ripa, a 10th-grader, “will be our workhorse on the mound.” Although he is “still looking at the rest of the rotation,” Marra expects juniors James Buckley, James Durland and Jesse Levine to see some serious time facing opposing batters.
“We have a lot of kids in the bullpen competing for the middle innings,” Marra explained. “We’re going to be mixing and matching.”
Marra and the Panthers have their work cut out for them. During the last two seasons, Monticello posted an overall record of 3-31 (1-14 in 2007 and 2-17 in 2008). In addition, the Panthers haven’t had a winning season since 2000, making it eight years in a row they have been unable to earn a berth in the Section IX Baseball Tournament.
Marra said the first step in getting the Panthers back in the position of vying for a spot in postseason is “getting the kids to learn how to compete.” He anticipates moving ahead into a position as a contender “at the end of the season or maybe next year.
“Traditionally [in recent years] it’s been a struggling program, but we’re trying to turn that around and build a solid foundation,” Marra said. “Teach the kids how to compete and then build them up fundamentally from the ground up by giving them opportunities to play summer baseball.
“Doing a reclamation project is one I like, and I think there’s enough ability here at Monticello so that we can do it,” Marra said. “The bottom line is that if you have kids who want to work hard and commit themselves six days a week, you can accomplish a lot of things and change the culture from recreational baseball to competitive baseball.”
The seniors on the Panthers’ roster are Pedro Correa, Antonio Cruz, Erik Mayberg, Matt Thomas, Rion Welsh and Anthony Williams. The team roster also includes seven juniors: Jason Arias, James Buckley, Anthony D’Abbraccio, James Durland, Justin Larchevesque, Jesse Levine and Serafin Rodriguez; three sophomores: Patrick Ripa, Chris Schnabel and Bobby Wagner; and two freshmen: Connor Briggs and Sean Reuss.
Marra’s goal for this season?
“Play every game hard, and the other teams will know we’re for real and we’re going to try to beat ‘em every pitch,” he replied.
Asked to describe his formula for winning games, Marra replied, “I believe in get ’em on, get ’em over and get ’em in.
“If we play really good defense and limit the opposition to 21 outs, hit well, run and steal, and try to manufacture runs, we’ll make things happen.”