They do everything together, including win Warren Area High School's first District 10 baseball championship since 1977.
There were nine seniors on the field to start the Dragons' 2-0 win over Cathedral Prep last Monday in the District 10 Class AAA championship game at Ainsworth Field in Erie.
Catcher-Andrew Bevevino; first baseman-Preston McMeans; second baseman-Eddie Dorunda, shortstop-Kory Thomas; third base-Kevin VanOrd; left fielder-Dan Maeder; center fielder-Chris Danielson; right fielder-Matt Jaskolka, and; pitcher-Hank Morrison.
Photo by Denny Kyser
You can’t take these guys out. Nine Warren seniors started the District 10 Class AAA championship game last Monday against Cathedral Prep at Ainsworth Field. Dragons, posing together at the Prom, include, in front, Preston McMeans; second row, from left, Eddie Dorunda and Chris Danielson and, in back, Kory Thomas, Dan Maeder, Andrew Bevevino, Kevin VanOrd, Matt Jaskolka and Hank Morrison.
"Nine starters - we've never had that many (seniors start) before," said Warren head coach Jeff Passaro.
Now those nine seniors will lead the Dragons into the PIAA Class AAA Tournament against Thomas Jefferson at 6 p.m. Monday at Slippery Rock University.
And call it what you will, but there's a definite chemistry with a group of boys that have been hanging out together their entire lives.
"I know them better than I know anyone," said Bevevino.
On and off the field.
"It makes it a ton easier," said Morrison. "I can throw anything I want to (to Andrew) because I trust him. He's been a catcher his whole life, and I think it makes a big difference with the chemistry."
Morrison said they didn't always play on the same Little League baseball teams. Being among the best players at each level, the kids were split up. But when all-star tournament play rolled around every summer, they were together.
Seems like they've all taken thousands of batting practice swings off ol' "rubber arm," Ted Morrison, Hank's father. Each and every one of them.
In fact, four years ago, a lot of these same kids won a District 10 championship in Little League.
"We've all been together, including the coaches and parents," said Hank Morrison's mother, Amy. "We're close, yes. We've been through a lot with these kids. In so many sports, people come and they go... people play the sports and they leave. But this core group of kids - when do you ever start all seniors because all nine of them deserve to be out there?"
Danielson contends that this group decided long ago that they'd win a District 10 high school baseball championship in their senior season.
Many of this group got to experience a D-10 championship game against Corry when they were sophomores. They came close again when they returned as juniors, advancing to the championship game against Grove City.
"The chemistry we have has come with time, with knowing each other and playing together," said Bevevino. "You just can't make up chemistry.
"I've had a little bit of a chance to think about it and add up all the days in my head," he said. "All the days we've been on the field - it's been such a good experience, such a blast. They are truly my family."
"They know each other, and they know what everyone is capable of doing if someone has a down day," said Passaro. "There's always someone there to pick up the slack. There have been lineups in the past (and on some pretty good Warren teams), in certain spots where you're going to struggle. With the lineup we have this year, any part of the lineup can produce. We have 10 guys who could be in just about anyone's lineup. It's a good problem to have.
"I think chemistry is real important," added Passaro. "The better they get along the better practices go, the better we play in games. We were pretty much running on all cylinders in April (when the season started)."
This group of seniors had over 250 combined at bats as sophomores, and over 350 last year. Dorunda, Jaskolka, Morrison, McMeans and VanOrd combined for 12 of the team's 14 pitching wins a season ago.
This year, Warren started 8-1 in April and finished the regular season as co-Region 8 champions at 14-3. The Dragons then beat Grove City, 6-3, and then Prep, 2-0, with Morrison pitching out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the seventh.
"It was the most important thing that's happened in my sports career," said Bevevino, who leads the team with a .423 batting average. "We've been talking about our senior year since we were freshmen. I think I can safely say that for all the other guys. Not getting this win would have been extremely disappointing. We're just going to have a lot of fun with it (on Monday), go out and relax and do the best we can, and just try to catch fire. I still don't think this team has really, really hit its stride."
Warren's seniors are going to have to beat a team that has senior standout Greg Schneider on the roster.
Schneider has allowed two earned runs all season in 73 1/3 innings, throwing 25 innings in three playoff games for WPIAL consolation game winner Thomas Jefferson (16-5). He's 9-1 on the season and strikes out nearly two batters an inning, with his only loss of the season coming in a 1-0 loss on the WPIAL playoffs.
If that's not enough motivation ...
"A lot of these boys are saying they can't imagine playing ball without each other," said Amy Morrison.
The seniors got together recently to hang out and watch a movie called "Small Ball" at Eddie Dorunda's house.
"These are all 17-and-18-year-old boys and they're doing the same thing they were doing when they were little - hanging out and watching a movie," she said. "I'm already crying right now."
"We've been playing together ever since I can remember, from (Little League) Minors to Majors to Juniors all the way up into high school," said Jaskolka. "The relationships and friendships that you build - you can rely on anyone at any point in any game. I'm best friends with the majority of (my teammates). The relationship I have with Bev (as catcher, for example) is unexplainable."
This season reminds Jaskolka a little of his freshman season, when he made his pitching debut in front of Addison Dunn, Brandon Schott, Matt Bennett, Jimmy Zorich, etc.
"(Underclassmen) Collin (Fantaskey), Jason Stanton and Tanner (Stanz) have gotten some varsity experience," said Jaskolka. "These kids are not going to be new to the playoff experience next year. They won't be scared. They'll know what to expect."
And they'll have the legacy of this group of seniors to follow.
This year's team takes on the persona of the last two District 10 runner-up teams. From Alex Blakeley, Tyler Fantaskey, T.J. Latimer, Tyler Leichtenberger and Casey Moyer to Andrew Morrison, whose late father's initials, "JM," adorn every current Dragons' cap.
This is a large and united group.
"All of us had it in our minds to do what we did this whole season," said Hank Morrison, "and we all had the same goal. We had to do it together."