Red & Black have high hopes for the 2018 varsity diamond season under Coach Ernie Griffis
It's been a long time since local fans had much to cheer about during the high school baseball season.
While Honesdale has consistently produced talented players, likable coaches and entertaining teams, victories have been hard to come by.
However, the program is beginning a new phase this spring under first year head coach Ernie Griffis and there's a palpable sense of excitement in the air.
“I'm very optimistic,” Coach Griffis said. “We have just about everybody back from last year and our numbers are really good.
“We've got a lot of juniors and a big freshman class, so I'm excited to get out there and see we they can do.”
Honesdale's new skipper comes to the Hornets by way of Mountain View. Griffis played high school baseball there, graduated in 2003 and then moved on to the King's College diamond.
He returned to his alma mater after earning his degree in 2007. Shortly thereafter, he became a varsity coach and then manager. All told, Griffis coached the Eagles for nine seasons.
“I'm happy to be here,” he said. “I think this is going to be a great year. We have a deep pitching staff and our hitters one through seven are just fierce.”
Weather permitting, local fans will have their first look at the Hornets on Friday, March 30 versus Western Wayne.
First pitch is tentatively slated for 1 p.m. at Keith Sutton Memorial Field.
Honesdale is coming off a disappointing season in the always-rugged Lackawanna League.
The Hornets went just 1-11 while competing in Division III against Prep and Valley View.
That marked the seventh consecutive year the Red & Black failed to finish with an above-.500 record.
In fact, the last time the Hornets enjoyed a winning season was back in 2010 when they posted an 8-6 record. The Red & Black then advanced to the District Two playoffs, but were eliminated by Pittston Area in the first round.
And, the last time a Honesdale team made any serious noise at districts came in 2008. That was a magical year as the Hornets catapulted all the way from the nine seed to a berth in the finals.
Maple City diamond fans rejoiced as Coach Mike Modrovsky's lads reeled off three straight wins over the likes of Dallas, Pittston Area and Tunkhnannock to earn a shot at the crown.
Sadly, this magical run came to a disappointing end as Berwick romped to an 11-0 win in the Class AAA title tilt.
Despite the recent drought and the ugly numbers put up last season, Coach Griffis has high hopes for this year's Hornet team.
Leading the way will be four battle-tested veterans: Andy Carroll, David Curreri, Anthony Dell'Aquila and Caleb Martin.
Carroll figures to be the ace of the staff. A junior who'll also play outfield when he doesn't pitch, Andy gained valuable experience last year at the varsity level.
“Andy has a ton of God-given talent,” Coach Griffis said. “He throws very hard, but he also has a couple of good breaking pitches. Andy is going to be a lot of fun to watch out there.”
Curreri is another member of a talented junior class. He will be a fixture in the middle infield and near the top of the Red & Black batting order.
“David isn't all that vocal, but he leads by example,” said Coach Griffis. “He's a very good shortstop and the kind of a kid you can rely on for leadership on and off the field.”
Dell'Aquila returns as the Hornet catcher. Yet another junior, Anthony is coming off a solid season and appears poised to break out in 2018. He'll be a standout behind the plate, but will also be given a chance on the mound.”
“Anthony is a hard-nosed player,” Coach Griffis said. “He's the kind of a kid who will run through a wall for you. I'm expecting big things from Anthony.”
Martin broke into the starting varsity line-up last spring as a frosh. He's a slick fielder and a line-drive hitter. Caleb will bat anywhere from second to clean-up this season.
“He's a big, strong kid who should really make some noise this year,” said Coach Griffis. “Baseball is Caleb's only sport. He plays pretty much year-round and has a great work ethic.”
The Hornets just recently returned from a trip down south, traveling to West Virginia over the course of a long weekend.
Coach Griffis' lads played three varsity games and one JV contest in Martinsburg, faring well overall … especially considering the fact that weather has kept them inside for practice.
“I'm definitely pleased with how we did,” he said.
“Pitching was a bright spot and we hit the ball hard for the most part. Fielding was a challenge, but that's to be expected because it was our first time outside.”
If everyone stays healthy and things progress as anticipated, Honesdale will boast six front-line pitchers in 2018.
Carroll will likely be slotted in at number one, followed in no particular order by: Jack Dennis, Nate Frigoletto, Cade LaBracio, Martin and Dell'Aquila.
“Right now, I'd put that group up against just about anybody,” Coach Griffis said. “Pitching is so important in high school baseball and I love what I'm seeing from these kids so far.”