Niagara Gazette —
One year removed from a magical sectional run that ended with a loss in the state championship game, the Grand Island baseball team faces a few questions while trying to defend its Section VI crown.
Gone are 10 seniors from last year's veteran team, including pitchers John McGinty, Dylan Kelly and A.J. Jasek.
All that remains from last year's regular season roster are junior pitcher Quinn Corrao and senior second basemen Nick Soos.
Coach Dean Santorio said the lack of returnees doesn't mean there's a lack of talent.
"These kids all played JV last year, and all of them were on our playoff roster," Santorio said. "They worked hard and deserved to be on the team, and they were probably good enough to play and compete. They were just not quite as good as the seniors I had. These kids are all good players."
Corrao, who also plays quarterback for Santorio during football season, will also play first or third base and bat in the middle of the order.
Speedy sophomore center fielder Mark McKenna  will lead off, and junior Greg Nicolia, who made two key putouts as an injury substitution in the bottom of the seventh inning of GI's 2-1 win over Albion in last season's Section VI Class A championship game, will start at shortstop and bat second.
Senior Chris Foote will bat fourth and split time behind the plate with junior Ben Goc, one of Corrao's favorite targets on the gridiron.
When Corrao's not on the hill, pitching duties will fall to a quartet of seniors -- John Holody, Matt Lenz, Josh Ungaro and Jake Lawely. When Corrao is pitching, Ungaro and Lawely will surround McKenna in the outfield while Holody and Lenz will man the corners in the infield.
Santorio said senoir Adam Stanczyk will also see plenty of playing time, bringing good speed to the outfield.
The Vikings are 2-2 this year (1-0 in the Niagara Frontier League), with wins over Kenmore West and Sweet Home and losses to Starpoint and Wilson.
Santorio said the goals for this season are high despite the new faces, but the team will set its sights on league play at the start.
"The goal should always be to finish in the top half of your division," Santorio said. "Every year when you lose good kids you know you have to have kids fill in and rebuild. ... I think this year, knowing we're a bit more inexperienced, our goals are still the same -- compete in the division, hopefully have a shot at the NFL and, depending how your power points add up, get a good seed in sectionals."Follow Gazette sports reporter Mike Meiler on Twitter @mikemeiler for updates on your local teams.