Casey Craig is new to his role as GM of the Laurel Auto Group franchise in the AAABA League.
But Craig has seen enough of Mark Thomchick to realize the first-year manager has brought instant respectability to a team that finished eight games under .500 last season.
Thomchick joined Laurel after three seasons as an assistant baseball coach at Washington & Jefferson College, where he also was a catcher during his playing days and still is among the career leaders with 21 homers and 91 RBI.
Last summer, the Indiana native was an assistant coach with the Cotuit Kettleers in the prestigious wooden-bat Cape Cod Collegiate Baseball League.
“Mark has done a great job,” Craig said prior to Laurel Auto Group’s 6-3 upset of league-leading Delweld on Tuesday night at Point Stadium. “Mark’s an alum of the league who played for Delweld, so I think he understands the caliber of baseball in the AAABA League.
“His spending two summers in the Cape Cod League brings a lot of credibility for him as a manager of the team, especially with the young kids.”
Laurel Auto Group was 9-4 after Tuesday’s win over Delweld, a team that had won 13 of its first 14 games prior to the setback. LAG and Delweld met again Wednesday at Roxbury Park. Delweld won that game, 3-2.
Put into perspective, Laurel won only 14 of 36 games played last season.
“I really like the energy Mark brings to the team,” said Craig, himself an addition to the LAG team late last fall. “He does a great job of not only managing the game but also teaching as he manages. I think that’s a pretty unique talent to not only be focused in on the strategy of the game but also to teach on the side.”
Thomchick is assisted by IUP product Tony Piccolini and Dan Fenton, a Richland High graduate who played at Juniata college. Dan Webb also assists.
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Milestone managers: Chris DelSignore and Chris Pfeil are two of the most well-known managers in the AAABA League because of their teams’ success as well as the talent they’ve developed.
As reported earlier, DelSignore reached the 300-win milestone this season. He stood at 308 wins through Tuesday night and Delweld stood in a familiar spot at the top of the league standings (13-2) entering Wednesday’s games.
DelSignore was a standout player in the local league and at Division I Pitt. He got into the coaching side of the game as an assistant to then-Delweld manager Ross Kott in 1999 and took over as manager in 2002.
Other than one year away from his on-field duties, DelSignore has been a mainstay in the Delweld dugout and in the third-base coaching box. Even when he didn’t manage, he served as GM to another championship squad in 2008, the year Rick Roberts managed Delweld. He’s managed Delweld to 18 AAABA Tournament victories, including championship-round appearances in 2003 and 2010.
Like DelSignore, Pfeil played in the Johnstown Junior League/AAABA League, even posting a league-best .455 batting average with Alberters during his final season. After a successful college career at Clarion, Pfeil got into coaching as an assistant with Ladbrokes in 1998. A year later, he managed the Johnstown Grays’ first team.
Pfeil led the Grays to tournament appearances in 2002, 2004 and 2005. Martella’s Pharmacy took over the Grays’ sponsorship in 2008 and Pfeil has led the team to four straight AAABA Tournament appearances from 2009 through last season.
He has 17 AAABA Tournament wins.
In his 15th season, Pfeil is closing in on a milestone. He had 393 wins prior to Wednesday night’s action.
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League leaders: With four of the six league teams reporting, Martella’s Dillon Boyer had a league-best .500 average (11-for-22), while Ophthalmic Associates’ Alex Beiler was second at .421 (16-for-38) and Delweld’s Ian Helsel and Eric Weyant each were third at .391 (each 18-for-46).
Weyant had a league-high 22 runs through last week’s games. Delweld’s Ben Legath had two homers, and Helsel and Zach Solarczyk each had 14 RBI.
On the mound, Martella’s Mike Mulvey led the league with three wins through last week.
Martella’s Andrew Keirn hadn’t allowed an earned run in 71⁄3 innings, and Delweld’s Brad Ditzler was second with a 0.70 ERA in 10 innings. Ditzler also had two saves.
Delweld’s Legath’s 18 strikeouts were the most in the league, two more than Ophthalmic Associates’ Austin Barefoot.