By Brad Fauber
Jake Weghorst understands the importance of building team chemistry in the week of practice prior to the start of the Valley Baseball League season.
In his first year as manager of the Front Royal Cardinals, Weghorst knows that the sooner his guys can get comfortable with each other on the field, the better off his team will be. But Weghorst and the Cardinals may have a little trouble building that initial rapport.
Several players listed on the Cardinals' roster are currently playing in the NCAA Division I Regionals this weekend, and others have yet to arrive in Front Royal after completing their respective college seasons. As a result, Front Royal will be about half strength when it travels to Aldie to open the 2013 season.
"We're going to play with what we've got," Weghorst said in a phone interview Tuesday. "I think we'll have around 10 or 11 hitters and nine pitchers on Friday. We don't have a lot to choose from right off the bat."
Despite the challenge of a limited roster, Weghorst said he has a good variety of players currently at his disposal and no one will be forced to play out of position as the team waits for the remainder of its roster to trickle in.
Weghorst was also confident enough in what he saw during a bullpen session earlier this week to name Jordan DeLorenzo the starting pitcher for tonight's game against the Aldie Senators.
DeLorenzo made just two starts (eight appearances) in his junior season at Division II West Florida, working to a 4.05 ERA with 12 walks and nine strikeouts in 13 1/3 innings, but Weghorst liked what he saw from the 6-foot-1 lefty in practice.
"I think he's the right guy to start off the 2013 season for us," Weghorst said. "He can run it up there in the mid-80s and he can command three pitches for strikes."
Weghorst is less confident in exactly how the starting lineup will look tonight, as the batting order will probably vary in the early part of the season as Weghorst gets a better feel for the most efficient lineup. But Weghorst could guarantee that powerful first baseman Joey Miller will bat cleanup against Aldie tonight and probably will do so well into the future.
Miller put up stellar numbers during his junior season at Concord University, finishing in the top five in Division II in home runs (15) and RBIs (70) to go along with a .342 batting average in 54 games. Miller is also an excellent defender, committing just two errors (.995 fielding percentage) at first base for Concord this past year.
"He's a very athletic kid, very good around the bag and he'll have a chance to do some really good things at the plate for us," Weghorst said.
The pitching staff -- which is comprised of a mix of Division I, II and III pitchers -- is also a bit of an unknown to Weghorst this early in the season, although Weghorst did say that Paul Hvozdovic, of Shepherd, will start the home opener against Winchester on Saturday at Bing Crosby Stadium. Hvozdovic had a 3.66 ERA in 16 starts while recording a team-high 85 strikeouts for Shepherd this past season.
Mary Washington's Jake Black (54 1/3 IP, 1.99 ERA, 42 strikeouts) and Texas-Pan American's Aaron Moore (12 2/3 IP, 2.84 ERA, 17 strikeouts) also put up solid numbers this year.
Weghorst said team speed should be a strength for the Cardinals this season, led by Concord freshman outfielder Andrew Seigel (.376 batting average, 57 runs, 27 stolen bases) and Barry University shortstop J.C. Cardenas (.316, 35 runs, 12 stolen bases), who both figure to be batting at the top of Front Royal's batting order.
Catchers Garrett Flynn, of West Florida, and Kyle Morrow, of Pittsburgh-Johnstown, will both split time at the position, although Morrow (.350, 4 HR, 31 RBIs) will also play left field.
Tennessee-Martin's Brent Morris will see significant time in outfield, and Samford University's Anthony Gonzalez -- a high school teammate of Cardenas -- will man second base. Mike Tomlinson, of West Florida, will play third base, and Baylor's Ben Carl will be used in an infield utility role.
"I think overall our team speed is will be good, and we also have some guys who can hit it in the gaps," Weghorst said. "We will be a balanced team, won't be too heavy in any one area.
"I know we'll draw some great crowds," he added. "I can't guarantee wins but we will put a good team together and be aggressive. I think everybody's excited."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org