With a new season underway, the Oley/Topton Patriots are ready to make some noise in the Schuylkill Berks American Legion Baseball League. After a good showing in last year's playoffs, the Patriots hope to get all the way to First Energy Stadium where the championship game will be played.
Head Coach Fred van Gulik likes what he sees in his team in the early going. He will have some very good talent coming back from last year's team but he also likes what he sees in the younger players.
'It's a balanced team,' said Coach Gulik. 'Our youngsters are very good and will do well replacing the older players we lost.'
The Patriots will be back in the Southern Division of the Schuylkill Berks League and will be battling for the division title with Kutztown, Muhlenberg, Fleetwood, Schuylkill Valley, Hamburg and Wyomissing. After taking off the 2011 season, Tulpehocken will be back in the division.
Coach Gulik listed just one goal for his team this year, and that is to get to the league championship game. 'With the right attitude, we will make the correct adjustments to overcome adversity,' said the coach.
The Patriots will certainly have a shot at the championship. They have quite a few players back from last year that were key members of the team.
Leading the way is Zach Eddinger who is the ace pitcher and plays shortstop when not on the mound.
'He is an ace at both positions,' said van Gulik. 'Besides this he brings speed and experience to our team.
Another pitcher, Garret Pelko, will also be back this year. 'He is the guy that I would throw out there in any game situation to shut the door on our opponenet,' said the coach.
Zach Tomasko will be back at second base, and will also see some time on the pitching mound. According to his coach he has a great attitude and is a hard worker. He will be expected to drive in a lot of runs this season and chances are that is exactly what he will do.
Tim Shores will also be a big part of the offense again this year. The first baseman and pitcher will be the power hitter in the heart of the line-up and works hard to improve his game.
Nick Distasio is coming off a high school season in which he batted over .500. He is also a player that can hit for power.
'This kid is going to be something special,' said van Gulik.
Kevin Sell will be back behind the plate and van Gundy is happy to have hime back, 'He is the best catcher in Berks County. He has a power bat and handles our pitching staff very well.'
Tim Brill is speed on the team. He has the ability to turn a walk into a triple with a couple of stolen bases. He will patrol the outfield and can spell Sell behind the plate. 'He works hard to improve every day,' said his coach.
The fact that this team has quality pitchers back from last year is a good sign. If they can muster up some runs (there is no reason to believe they won't), this could be a very interesting and entertaining season for the Patriots.
'It should be another quality baseball season full of surprise,' said Coach Van Gulik. That pretty much sums it up perfectly.