By Mike Meiler email@example.com
Niagara Gazette — Two years ago, Quinn Corrao and Greg Nicolia got a taste of postseason success when they were called up from junior varsity to play limited roles during the Grand Island Vikings' run to the 2012 state semifinals.
Now the seniors form two-thirds of the key trio charged with leading the Vikings on another state run.
Corrao, Nicolia and junior Mark McKenna are three of a large group Vikings returning after playing in 2013, when Grand Island went 10-4 and tied for second in the Niagara Frontier League before bowing out to the Hamburg Bulldogs in the Section VI Class A semifinals.
Excellence is the standard on the Isle, where the Vikings have won two of the past five sectional titles. Head coach Dean Santorio hopes to follow the same script to success that has worked in the past.
"I know (Niagara Falls) will be tough again, and Lockport is always going to be strong," he said. "Every year we want to make sure we're battling for one of the top-3 spots. If we finish one, two or three in our league, we can get enough power points for sectionals to get a pretty good seed. We just want the opportunity to be there at the end of the year."
Corrao, who was named first team All-Western New York as a junior, will lead the way from the hill after posting a 5-0 record with a 0.82 ERA as a starter last season. Quarterback of the football team, Corrao missed time in the fall with an ankle injury. Santorio said he's now healthy and garnering some Division I interest, particularly from Canisius.
Behind Corrao in the rotation will be junior Josh Barrett, a righty making his first appearance on varsity.
"He throws with nice velocity, very similar to Quinn, and has a nice breaking ball," Santorio said.
Santorio said pitching will be key this season. He said he's happy with his top pair and hopes depth will be an advantage down the stretch.
"If our first two guys are solid, we have enough other guys to get it done," Santorio said. "I think we'll have 7-8 guys who can throw this year, and I feel a lot more comfortable than years past."
Also seeing time on the mound will be brothers Mark and Manny Montes, a junior and sophomore, senior Kyle Schoener and junior Bobby Carroll.
Nicolia and McKenna will be the focal points for GI both offensively and defensively. During the 2012 playoff run, Nicolia was forced into defensive action after an injury to starting shortstop John McGinty, who is now playing Division I at the University of Hartford.
Back then, Santorio said Nicolia might've been the best fielder in the GI program. This season, he'll start at shortstop and bat third. Santorio mentioned that Nicolia has drawn interest from Division II Gannon University in Erie, Pa.
McKenna — a first team All-NFL player as a sophomore who joins Corrao on Canisius' radar — will start in centerfield and hit fourth.
Santorio has most of his lineup set, though he said he wasn't positive who would lead off. The top candidate is junior Mitch Racz, a transfer who started at Kenmore East last season who will see time at catcher, second base and in the outfield.
Barrett will hit second, playing first or third when he's not on the hill. Corrao will follow Nicolia and McKenna form the five-hole, alternating with Barrett on the corners when not pitching.
Ben Goc, who played a reserve role last season, will see time at catcher and in the outfield. Senior Bryce Callen can play second or outfield. Manny Montes can catch and play the infield, while Mark Montes will see time in the outfield.
First base is the only position still up in the air. Santorio said Corrao, Carroll, Schoener and sophomore Brendan Sheehan will all see some time.
"The nice thing is that most of these guys are pretty flexible on where they can play," Santorio said. "... We're really comfortable with our depth."
The Vikings are scheduled to kick off their season at 4:45 p.m. Monday at Kenmore West.
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