Wildcats building for the future under Coach Drew Boandl
Western Wayne baseball fans haven't had a great deal to cheer about over the course of the past few seasons.
Two years ago under Head Coach Jason Kromko, the Wildcats struggled to a 2-11 Lackawanna League record and were eliminated in the first round of the District Two tournament.
Former Wallenpaupack Area standout Chris Ortiz took over the managerial duties last spring and could fare no better. The 'Cats went 1-12 and suffered a lopsided loss in Round One of the AAA playoffs.
Looking back, it's been nearly two decades since a Western Wayne dominated the local diamond scene under the guidance of head coach Joe Romanowski.
Now, with the 2016 campaign right around the corner, school officials have turned to a familiar face in the hopes of reviving a once-thriving program.
Drew Boandl was a multi-sport standout during his four-year varsity career in Varden, starring on both the diamond and gridiron.
The lightning-quick outfielder earned all-league honors before heading off for stellar stints at East Stroudsburg University and Keystone College.
Boandl stayed on at Keystone after graduation, serving six years as an assistant coach and helping the Giants to remain a fixture in playoff action.
“I'm definitely excited for the opportunity,” Coach Boandl said. “It was a little bit tough leaving Keystone after nine years, but I'm pretty pumped to be back at my alma mater.”
The 2004 Western Wayne graduate inherits a young team whose players must learn how to win.
“This is a fresh start,” Coach Boandl said. “I'm not expecting miracles in the first season or two, but my goal is to have this team playing in the district title game within four years.”
To accomplish that feat, Boandl will need to begin building a program from the ground up. And, it appears as though he's off to a solid start with 29 players out for the junior high team, 15 of which are eighth graders.
“I'm working with an awesome group of parents and the school district is behind us 100 percent,” he said. “The future's looking pretty bright.”
Only two seniors remain from last year's squad that eked out just a single win in Lackawanna League action.
Josh Stevens and Tyler Bagnick are battle-tested veterans, each of whom is expected to play a major role this spring.
Stevens' biggest asset may be his versatility. Coach Boandl can pencil him in at catcher, second base, third base, shortstop and even on the mound.
Bagnick will open the season at second base and is also expected to contribute as a pitcher.
“I talked to those two kids right away,” Coach Boandl said. “They're in a tough position because I'm their third coach in four years.
“Josh and Tyler are going to be a big part of what we do this season.”
On their way
Two younger players who should contribute mightily to the 'Cats cause this year are Logan Bolduc and James Sommers.
Bolduc is just a freshman, but he's already showing flashes of brilliance that make his skipper smile.
“As far as I'm concerned, Logan has the potential to be one of the best players in the entire league,” Coach Boandl said. “If he stays focused and keeps working hard, he might be one of the best players ever to come through Western Wayne.”
While nothing is set in stone quite yet, Bolduc has the inside track on earning an Opening Day start at shortstop. However, he can also pitch and play in the outfield.
Sommers looks to have a lock on the first base job as the opener draws ever nearer. He's a crafty southpaw who will see time on the mound as well.
“James is a good, solid, all-round player,” Coach Boandl said. “He's been looking good around first base in practice and hitting the ball pretty well.”
Western Wayne will once again be competing in the Lackawanna League's Division II this spring.
The Wildcats will square off against the likes of North Pocono, Honesdale, Paupack and DV.
Last year, the Trojans captured the title with a 10-3 mark. Abington Heights (10-3), Mid Valley (10-2) and Montrose (11-1) also copped division crowns.
If the Wildcats hope to break out of the cellar, they'll have to: cut down on defensive errors, improve last year's woeful on-base average and avoid the dreaded 'big inning.'
Boandl believes his collegiate experience, both as a player and as a coach, have prepared him to deal with these problems.
“I'm an Old School type,” he said. “I've been involved with baseball since I was 4-years-old. I learned it from my grandfather. He taught me the right way to play the game and that's the way I coach.
“Our kids are going to be hard-nosed and fundamentally sound.”