YOUNGSTOWN – Sometimes it’s hard to believe, but leading your alma mater has always been a dream for many stellar athletes who eventually get into coaching.
After serving as Cardinal Mooney’s assistant coach for the past five years, Eddie Reese took over the Cardinals’ baseball program following the retirement of longtime coach Al Franceschelli in the offseason.
It will also be a learning spring, with eight seniors from last year’s team gone, the Cardinals have plenty of new faces ready to step onto the court.
“A lot of guys are trying to win spots and playing time, and I think that’s only going to help us down the road,” Reese spoke about the team, taking notes from Franceschelli. “You just have to focus every day to get the kids ready to go. In high school baseball, it’s tough when you practice indoors for a few months but compete every day. .
“Coach Al was great at getting the guys going and I’m trying to do what he did.”
Reese was a member of Cardinal Mooney’s Class of 2010, before having a stellar career at Division III Wooster where he posted a .367 career average with 148 RBI for the Fighting Scots. He eventually won the North Coast Athletic Conference Player of the Year during his junior season.
It was his connections in this area that allowed him to formulate a tough out-of-market schedule against Waynedale and Wooster Triway, which are games he hopes will challenge his team in April and May.
“Our philosophy is that we will play anyone, anywhere. We play virtually everyone in the region at least once, apart from a few teams,” said Reese. “I think if you take what our men’s basketball team did this year, they had a very tough schedule and it only helped them in the playoffs.
“We’re in the Steel Valley Conference, but we’re not like other schools where we’ve played a real conference program for a real conference title, so our title is a district title, and that’s what we let’s aim.”
There are times Reese has said he wishes he was in his players’ shoes, to be able to get back on the court, but he’s excited about what the Cardinals have to offer.
Posting a 17-9 mark, Mooney capped off his 2021 season with a 1-0 loss to Burton Berkshire in the D.III Struthers District Final, while picking up wins over top seeds Columbiana and Garfield in their playoff series.
The team’s experience begins with a pair of seniors in starting shortstop and pitcher Jim Campbell and fellow pitcher Cole Litman, who is committed to Indiana University in Pennsylvania and posted a 4-3 record last season with a 3.20 ERA and 47 strikeouts.
Strengthening the outfield is senior Zach Hyrb, a Walsh hire who hit .292 last season with 18 runs scored. Juniors Bronson Ferencak (2-0, 3.00 ERA in five appearances with two saves), Logan Boyd (0.348 average, with 19 RBIs and two home runs) and Jeff Brenner (.243 average, with seven RBIs and four runs tagged), add some much-needed depth to a Mooney roster that will include plenty of new entrants.
As any coach will tell you, the best way to learn the game is to play it. Reese and his team have had the opportunity to participate in a few scrimmages over the past week, with their eyes on Opening Day this weekend at Cene Park against Cleveland Benedictine – if Mother Nature and a snowstorm potential allow it.
“I would say the main challenge with the new formations is that it’s hard to tell the guys apart because we’re so on the inside,” Reese explained. “You have to be on the pitch, that’s where you really show where people excel. So you think they’re in that position inside, but outside and it could be a totally different place. .
“It was great to face other guys (in scrimmages) and go out on a pitch and go through different baseball situations, so we’re not going into game number one with no experience.”