Continuing their reign: Expectations the same with first-year coach Matt Rositano

MORNING JOURNAL/SAM GREENE The Amherst Comets hope to carry over the success they had last season with first-year varsity head coach Matt Rositano. From left to right: Griffin Weir, Connor Morris, Brandon Chesmar and Corey Stamco.

MORNING JOURNAL/SAM GREENE First-year varsity head coach Matt Rositano will look to lead the Comets to another SWC title.

It’s been a good decade for the Amherst Comets, winning four Southwestern Conference championships since 2003. But Amherst will have to continue their run with a new man in charge as junior varsity coach Matt Rositano steps in to replace recently-fired coach Al McConihe.

Rositano, who went 152-49 in his eight seasons coaching the junior varsity, has quite a squad left behind from last year’s SWC championship run, that includes Stanford University signee Griffin Weir, last year’s SWC MVP Connor Morris and shutdown southpaw Brandon Chesmar.

Although the face in charge is new, the expectation at Amherst remains the same as the goal is to win back-to-back conference titles for the first time since 2003-04.

“We’ve been telling the kids since I was hired that even though there was a coaching change so close to the season that the expectations haven’t changed,” Rositano said. “I expect them to play well and hopefully we can win a lot of games.

“Coach McConihe ran a fantastic program, and I think that was evidenced by the conference championships and the number of victories he piled up. I think it was important that even though the coaching change was so close to the season that we retained a lot of the staff starting with myself ... The program just kept on going, picked up right where we left off. I bring my own style, but a lot of things haven’t changed. I think the kids pick up on that and they just hit the ground running.”

Rositano’s experience of being in the system for eight years has helped to make his move to the varsity squad very smooth.

“The transition has been pretty seamless, him coming up from J.V. last year,” Weir said. “We all knew him. We’re all familiar with him. And him stepping up into the varsity spot was basically a nice, clean transition.”

Weir and Chesmar will anchor the Comets’ pitching staff this season.

Despite pitching just four innings last season due to injury, Weir made a huge impact at the plate hitting .422 with eight doubles and 22 RBIs, earning first-team All-SWC and All-Lorain County honors.

He will stay in the lineup, but he has been itching to get back on the mound.

“It’s been about 365 days since I threw four innings last season,” Weir said. “It was kind of a letdown, I’m not going to lie. So this season, I’m expecting a lot. I want to hog up some innings for the team, do as much as I can for them. I expect a lot out of myself, and hopefully I can perform.”

Chesmar, who went 4-0 with a 4.11 ERA last season, couldn’t be more excited about the top of the Comets’ rotation with Weir returning to the mound this season.

“I feel if he’s healthy — and he will be healthy — we will win a lot of games,” Chesmar said. “We have a good enough defense behind us and offense that we can put runs together.”

Morris, who was not only the conference MVP but he was also a first-team All-Lorain County and All-Ohio selection last season, returns to lead the Amherst offense after hitting .468 with seven doubles and 21 RBIs. Along with junior catcher Justin Mott who hit .357 with two home runs, six doubles and 24 RBIs, the Comets boast a lineup that should be just as dangerous as their pitching staff.

“You’ve got to be a team player, think situations,” Morris said. “I think everyone on the team is a good hitter. And if we can get guys in scoring position, no matter who’s up at the plate, I think they’ll be able to hit them in.”

While the Comets have outstanding senior leadership, they also have some young talent working its way up from the junior varsity as juniors Noah Skladan, Shane Derricotte and Carl Habestro will join the rotation after combining to go 17-5 last season.

“They’re all strike-throwers, which is good,” Rositano said. “I don’t think they’re going to be high-strikeout guys, but I expect us to play good defense behind them and they can get outs quick because they’re going to throw a lot of strikes. They have good off-speed stuff. I don’t think the jump from J.V. to varsity, the transition, will take that long with those three.”

Amherst’s quest to win the SWC for a second straight season and the fifth time in 10 years is going to be tough once again. The SWC presents quite a few significant challenges for the Comets including Avon Lake, Brecksville and a Westlake team fresh off a state championship game appearance.

“It’s great that we’re in a conference that’s so strong,” Morris said. “It’s probably one of the better conferences in the state. So it’s real nice that we get 14 good, strong competition games in. It really prepares us for the rest of the season, including the state tournament when you’re playing tough games like that all the way through the season.”

@Bielik_Tim

Last Updated: 3/30/2013 9:16:29 PM EST

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