The Thiel College baseball roster will feature a pair of Warren Area High School products next Spring.
Senior center fielder Austin Schwanke followed the commitment of Dragon teammate Tanner Teconchuk in announcing his intention to join the NCAA Division III Tomcats next year.
"Tanner's decision did influence me," said Schwanke, whose .344 batting average was the third highest among Warren hitters last season. "We had talked about both playing baseball at Thiel prior to our decision. Tanner and I have played baseball together since back in Little League. It's always nice to have a fellow teammate and friend to share the college experience with."
Times Observer file photo
Right on it
Warren’s Austin Schwanke takes a swing for Post 135 during an American Legion Baseball League game last summer. Schwanke became the third member of Warren’s 2014 class to commit to a college baseball program, choosing Thiel over Allegheny, Mercyhurst, Grove City, and Pitt-Bradford.
Schwanke chose Thiel over Allegheny, Mercyhurst, Grove City, and Pitt-Bradford.
"I was looking for a school that had the right Business Administration degree for me and still gave me the opportunity to play baseball," added Schwanke. "I heard many great things about Thiel, academically. (Tomcats head coach Joe Schaly) personally gave me the campus tour and showed a lot of care for his players both academically and athletically."
Playing college baseball has been a goal of Schwanke's since watching his older brother Wes - an Eisenhower High School graduate and District 10 champion with the Knights - move on to play at Penn State Beaver.
"I spent most of my younger years watching my brother, Wes, play baseball all the way into college," said Schwanke. "The fact that he played college baseball always gave me the desire to push and work hard so I could also play at the college level."
In addition to high school baseball, Schwanke spends the summer season playing with Post 135 legion and Kwik Fill Octane - a travel team that many of the current Dragons have played on since they were 10 years old. That group now has three college commitments from the 2014 class with Schwanke and Teconchuk joining shortstop/pitcher Collin Fantaskey, who signed a letter of intent with Division II Mercyhurst University in November.
Schwanke and his teammates are hoping to turn this year's talented roster into a repeat of the 2012 District 10 Class AAA Championship team, which also featured a number of seniors planning to play college baseball.
"As a team, our goal is nothing less than District 10 champs," said Schwanke.
Warren advanced to the D10 title game last year before falling to Slippery Rock in extra innings.
"This is our year. Most of us are seniors and have all played together since we were 10 years old. Through those years we've had great coaching (from Kwik Fill Octane coach Andy Teconchuk and Warren Area High School coach Rick Eaton). Without them we wouldn't be the great team that we are. After last year's loss in the championship game, we're all hungry for another shot at it."
The Dragons will get their shot this Spring, as they return all but two regular starters from the 2013 club. Schwanke will lead an outfield core looking to replace the production of right fielder Carter Cerra and left fielder Cameron McIntosh.
"Individually, I just want to play to my full potential and play as hard as I possibly can," said Schwanke. "I don't want to leave anything on the field."