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Bulldogs ready to repeat in district tournament
March 18, 2020

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One of the most dominant high school baseball teams in the area a season ago was the one from Poland.

The Bulldogs won 20 games and romped through the Northeast 8 Conference. They also capped a fantastic run in the Division II Struthers District tournament with an 8-7 upset victory over archrival and top seeded Canfield before bowing out to Gates Mills Gilmour Academy in the regional semifinals. That Poland squad was led by a terrifically talented pack of seniors like shortstop Braeden O'Shaughnessy, pitchers Alex Barth and Jared Knight, outfielder Ian Lu, catcher Andrew Testa and first baseman Robbie Seitz among others. With that grand group gone, it will take an enormous effort by this year's upperclassmen to once again lead the Bulldogs back to the regionals. Thankfully, head coach Rich Murray thinks he has the class of kids to do just that.

"Our strength is in our senior leadership," Murray said. "Our goals are the same and that is to win the Northeast 8 and advance far in the tournament again."

Poland returns ten senior players so Murray can make up an entire lineup of just twelfth-graders if he wanted. The best of that bunch may be first baseman/outfielder Zachary Yaskulka. The returning letter winner sported a .396 batting average in 2019. The losses of Barth and Knight on the bump will be hard to swallow, but having senior Mike Kushner coming back as possibly the number one starter will ease that pain. Kushner went 4-2 last season with a 2.78 Earned Run Average. Senior Stephen Carney will be returning to the hot corner. He was an important hitter in Murray's lineup last season. Part of the outfield will be ably handled by seniors Jake Bacon and Tyler Berry. Mason McCurdy is a senior returnee in the middle infield. The other seniors on the roster are Jarrett Shurilla, Billy Hunter, Andrew Parker and Mike Galterio.

Pitchers Dino Angelilli and Mason Planey are a pair of juniors who should help round out Poland's rotation. Juniors A.J. Patellis and Anthony Perry will both play in the infield. Patellis may also see time in the outfield too. Nate Hayes and Vinny Cercel are two other juniors who will be expected to contribute. One sophomore who should take a major step this spring is catcher Cole Corey. He saw some varsity time as a freshman and is being tabbed to take over for Testa behind the plate on a fuller time basis.

If this season's stable of seniors can be as successful as last year's class was, then a repeat trip to the regional round of the tournament may not be out of the question for the Poland program.

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