Last year, there were so many diamond gems scattered about Western New York that there wouldn’t have been enough starting positions on the field to play all of them at once had there been a team comprised of just these players.
Two high-round Major League Baseball draft picks (Clarence’s Mark Armstrong by Cincinnati and Amherst’s Jonah Heim by Baltimore) along with five Division I and II prospects took up seven spots on the 11-man All-Western New York first team.
Think that’s wild?
There were six more Division I signees who didn’t even earn All-WNY second-team laurels (FYI, the coaches pick these squads, not The News).
So, what about this year?
There are still plenty of gems out there. Whether they’ll draw more than just passing interest from the majors is still too early to tell, although there are a couple on this list who do happen to come from great bloodlines.
• J.D. Andreessen: Senior catcher transfers to Lancaster after three seasons at St. Mary’s and will attend Division I Campbell University in North Carolina. He’s on MLB radar as he participated in the 2014 Power Showcase at Marlins Stadium in Miami last January and has spoken to scouts from the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles.
• Dave Hollins: The Orchard Park senior is the son of the former Major Leaguer with the same name. Hollins, who has already committed to play next season at a junior college in Florida, has added power to his 5-foot-11, 175-pound frame, hitting a couple home runs in exhibition games during the Quakers’ trip to Florida to open the season. He hit .410 last year.
• Ryan Stekl: Senior pitcher/third baseman for Lancaster was on the mound for two of the three meetings last year against Clarence – dueling twice with Armstrong. Stekl, who will attend Canisius College, had a no-decision and lost, 2-1, in the Section VI Class AA final in those games to Armstrong. Stekl hit .530 as a sophomore.
• Philip Wells: St. Joe’s senior was Monsignor Martin offensive player of the year, USA Today first-team all-state and All-WNY first team last season after hitting .463 and committing no errors in center field. He also hit .438 as a sophomore in helping the Marauders to back-to-back Georgetown Cups. He will play at one of the top Division III schools in the country in Baldwin Wallace in Cleveland, which shares the same conference home as multiple-time national champion Marietta (Ohio).
• Alex Kovacs: St. Joe’s senior catcher/first baseman will attend Niagara next season. Six-foot-4 lad is good hitter with power, currently hitting near .380.
• Alex O’Donnell: Returning All-WNY first-team pick and Canisius College signee enters senior year as Starpoint’s record holder for doubles in a season and career and hit .440 last season.
•Charlie Sobierask: Lockport senior third baseman/pitcher is heading to University at Buffalo.
• Dan Dallas: Canisius sophomore first baseman. He’s not draft eligible, yet. He’s only the second freshman to ever start during longtime coach Bryan Tenney’s tenure. Dallas comes from talented gene pool as he is the first cousin of Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.
• Connor Ryan: Canisius senior pitcher will play at Division II Mercyhurst.
• John Conti: Canisius senior is currently hitting .421, has yet to be thrown out stealing a base and coach Bryan Tenney said he covers the most ground of any outfielder he’s ever coached. The three-year starter Conti will take his talents to Canisius College.
• Aaron Phillips: Cleveland Hill senior entered season hitting .571, has committed to St. Bonaventure and holds the Cleve Hill record for strikeouts in a game (19).
• Tage Johnson: Frewsburg senior carries career average of nearly .430 into senior season and is off to a .542 start through the Bears’ first eight games.