Heading into the 2023 season, the Wickliffe Blue Devils return six starters from last year’s squad that finished 15-8 overall and 8-4 in the Chagrin Valley Conference Metro Division.
Despite a large number of returning starters, the Blue Devils will be relatively young this spring.
“We will once again be pretty young with only three senior starters. However, we do have quite a few lettermen returning and they played well as underclassmen last season,” said Wickliffe coach Phil Motta. “We had a good amount of the roster letter last season and now will be in starting roles. We have an overall depth issue, so we will have to stay healthy.”
Wickliffe won’t dwell on its graduation losses, but the Blue Devils have a lot of production to make up for this spring.
“We lost a ton of offensive output from last year’s squad,” Motta said. “We are going to have to have guys step up. A few of our guys are heading into their third year as varsity starters and we are hoping we get some power from them this season, but we really are not that type of team.”
Among Wickliffe’s returning starters is first-team All-CVC selection Colin Casey, who as a third-year starter will play third base and serve as the ace of the pitching staff.
Casey, one of three seniors in the projected starting lineup, batted .388 with 11 stolen bases and was 3-2 on the hill with a 4.41 earned run average and 44 strikeouts in 27 innings of work.
Wickliffe’s other seniors include three-year starters Jimmy Nemeth, who will catch, and Vince Gargiulo, who will play second, and Shaun Derganc, who will see time in right field.
Rounding out the projected starting lineup are juniors Noah Dohm (DH) and Bobby Plumb (CF), sophomores Liam Widemire (1B) and Nunzio Zivnoska (LF), who lettered as a freshman, and freshman shortstop Frankie Bucar.
Casey and Brandon Henderson will play third base when they aren’t pitching, and Chase Bonadio will provide depth in the outfield.
Zivnoska, Widemire, Plumb, and Dominic DeVincentis also will pitch for the Blue Devils.
“We have very good team speed, so we are going to have to try to be good situational hitters and be as aggressive as we can on the bases,” Motta said. “While we don’t have overpowering pitchers, we do have four that we will count on for the league. That is going to give us flexibility and as a result, we will not have to push one guy too much.”
Wickliffe once again has the talent to compete for the CVC Metro Division title, but as is the case with any high school baseball team, the Blue Devils’ success hinges on each player understanding his role and playing consistently in each game, despite the circumstances.
“Our guys have to buy into doing what it takes to compete every day and dedicate themselves to what is becoming the shortest season in high school sports with the most distractions,” Motta said.