Wednesday, April 21, 2021


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Tribe Baseball Team Starting from Scratch
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer

            Upper Perkiomen's baseball team begins the 2021 season with only four players with varsity experience. Otherwise, the team is starting from scratch, according to head coach Frank Mercon.

            "I don't have any expectations," he said. "There are too many unknowns."

            The Tribe is preparing for its first season since 2019. The team won't have any scrimmages or non-league games before kicking off a 16-game Pioneer Athletic Conference schedule on April 12 at Pottstown. It didn't have a preseason, and several players have not played competitively in nearly two years.

            "In all my years of coaching, this season is nothing like anything I've ever done before," said Mercon, who is in his 24th season at the school, referring to the health and safety protocol implemented by the school board.

            Two years ago, the Indians qualified for the District One Class 5A playoffs, their first postseason appearance in three seasons. They posted an 8-8 PAC record, accomplishing a goal set by Mercon.

            Concerns over the novel coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 season. Early on, the coach said the program had made significant strides. He set a goal of reaching the conference playoffs and making a deep run in the District One Class 5A playoffs.

            Malachi Duka and Evan Shade, the two top returning players from the 2019 team, should anchor a group of more than a dozen seniors. Both developed significant experience with that unit.

            Both can pitch, according to Mercon. Duka also plays the outfield, and Shade should line up at second base.

            The Tribe seniors on the team will likely include catcher Dalton Dunlap, Nate Rinehart, a shortstop and pitcher, and infielder Shane Mohan.

            The team will rely on its usual offensive style, which is to manufacture runs. According to Mercon, solid defensive play will also be necessary.

            In terms of pitching, the Indians have multiple arms. The coach said he won't be afraid to make a quick change, early on in the season.

            "If someone is struggling, they likely will have a short leash," said Mercon, whose team will open its home schedule Wednesday, April 14 against Phoenixville. "I'm concerned about the arms. Most of our guys have only been throwing for three weeks."

            A challenging schedule will likely test Upper Perkiomen's depth. The team is preparing to play three games a week during a 32-day stretch. Thanks to the postponement of its April 9 game against Pope John Paul II to April 29, one week will include four games.

           According to Mercon, the players have embraced the COVID-19 protocols, which include mask wearing, weekly tests for the virus and a prohibition on spitting. He thanked them for their cooperation.

            "Clearly they are all used to it," Mercon said. "We're a year into dealing with this. Nobody is fighting it. All the players are very respectful of the rules, which I appreciate. We need to get this season in, and the players need to have a good time doing it."





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