Tonawanda News

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April 6, 2011

Jacks are warming up

— — The No. 1 question heading into the 2011 season for the North Tonawanda baseball team is pitching, but head coach Tony Ruffolo is hoping senior Joe Montesanti is part of the answer.

“We don’t have a set rotation yet, but I can tell you right now our No. 1 is probably Joe Montesanti, who hasn’t pitched before,” said Ruffolo, who returns to the helm after a year hiatus in which he spent time with his wife and newly adopted son.

With that said, the Jacks’ success is contingent on how far their mound can take them.

Ruffolo said Montesanti’s arm is live, clocking in at 82 and 83 consistently with solid command on all three pitches.

“If our guys throw strikes, they keep the ball down; I think we have a great defense and I think our offensive game is going to be good,” he said. “But again, it’s as long as we can throw strikes, we can compete. It’s a tough (Niagara Frontier League). It’s one of those years where you don’t know who’s really the powerhouse in the league.”

The Jacks will have to overcome a slew of significant losses, which include Derrick Bloomfield, Tony Miano, Tim Taylor and Mike Tuzzo.

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Returning first-team all-NFL third baseman Jesse Puscheck is expected to lead the charge offensively and defensively for NT.

Montesanti is slated to take Bloomfield’s spot in center field, while fellow seniors Josh Kern (shortstop) and Sam McCabe (catcher) will have a significant impact as well.

“We have a good mix. We have some veterans but we also have some young guys,” Ruffolo said. “We’re going to be competitive. That’s the best I can say.”

Perhaps the X-factor for the Jacks will be senior Dan Montesanti, who returns after a two-year reprieve.

“I’m hoping he’s the surprise, maybe the surprise in the league this year,” Ruffolo said of Dan Montesanti. “He could be that guy that contributes all around from whether he’s playing defensively, first base, on the mound, swinging — I’m hoping for big things from him.”

Dan Montesanti may fit in as the third man in the rotation behind senior lefty Rob Wikierski, Ruffolo said.

“For a little while we weren’t sure how our pitching was going to do, but it actually looks like it’s coming along,” said Puscheck, who finished his junior season batting .410 with four homers and 19 RBIs despite battling injuries all season long.

Puscheck is committed to play for Canisius College next spring.

“It’s all about throwing strikes and if we have solid defense behind us, we should win games,” he said.

Dan Montesanti will also play first base, with Wikierski in right field and Josh Snopkowski at second base.

Joe Montesanti added that he’s expecting good things from a rather balanced lineup.

“We have a lot of young guys but we have a lot of seniors,” he said. “We’ve got some veterans, but I think we should be all right. If our pitching holds, I think we’ll be good.”

With pitching the key in the NFL, Ruffolo said he hopes the Jacks can keep pace.

“That’s my goal for sure. My goal is obviously to put a banner up and to continue to go a little further than that,” he said. “But again, it’s tough. It’s a very competitive league.”

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