QZ93 Sports

Shade baseball ready to attack the diamond

In Baseball, District 5, Shade, WestPAC on March 19, 2009 at 6:00 am

The Shade Panthers have enjoyed unparalleled success during the past few months of basketball season, and now many of those same athletes will get their crack at some diamond dreams.

Coming off a District 5 Class A playoff appearance a season ago, the Panthers will open this baseball campaign Tuesday at home against Salisbury at 4 p.m.

Among the strong core of returning players are a few names familiar to basketball fans across the region. Seniors Garrett Berkey, Joel Kaminsky, Josh Barnes, Brandon Kudasik and junior Tyler Smith were the starting five for the district championship Panthers basketball team and each will play a key role this spring.

The group provides a lot of speed, as well as some strong arms. Kaminsky is a strong player at the plate, with a knack for getting on base while Barnes and Berkey can provide some pop with the bat. Kudasik will start at short for the third straight season, and Smith will likely move to centerfield this year.

Berkey, Kaminsky and junior Ryan Medva figure to be among the team’s top pitchers this year.

“I would think our strength will be our defense and pitching and overall team speed,” said Shade coach Paul Leonard, in his 31st season at the helm. “This is probably one of the fastest teams one through nine that I have had in a long time. We may be a little more aggressive on the bases than we have in the past.”

“We want to have a lot of hustle,” Leonard added. “We want to have strong mechanics and good basic skills. I think the ability to score runs throughout the lineup will be key.”

The Panthers will need all of that skill in a tough WestPAC South division which is full of strong teams, including returning section champion Meyersdale.

“Many of the WestPAC teams are very well coached,” Leonard said. “There are a lot of experienced coaches in the WestPAC and a lot of the teams have at least one very good pitcher.”

Leonard is looking for strong play early this season from the Panthers, but always has his mind focused on the end goal.

“We don’t want any mental errors early and we want to be able to step up to the challenge and not wait for someone else. Each one of them can do the job,” Leonard said. “It’s always been my goal to get better as the season goes on and be playing our best baseball as it comes to playoff time.”

BY MATT JORDAN
matt@qz93sports.com

Note: This is the first in a series of articles profiling teams from around Somerset County and the WestPAC.

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