Todd Varesco is new to the role of varsity head coach, taking over as leader of the Northwest baseball program prior to the 2011 season. However, he is not new to the Jaguars he’s coaching.
Varesco was a Northwest varsity assistant for three years and the head JV coach for four years before taking over the varsity team. He built relationships with each of the Jaguars as they came up through the program, eliminating the challenge some first-year coaches face of familiarizing themselves with athletes.
“Every guy on that team this year, I’ve had two, three years already,” Varesco said. “… [The transition has] been seamless, really.”
On Monday, Varesco earned a victory in his varsity head coaching debut as Northwest defeated Blair 4-3 at BHS. Starting pitcher Matt Cononie picked up the win for the Jaguars.
Cononie, a senior right-hander, is the staff ace. He throws a curve ball and a slider to go with a mid-80s fastball. After pitching out of the bullpen last season, Cononie is expected to be the team's No. 1 in 2011.
“To see him from freshman year to senior year is just a 180-degree turn how much he’s grown up,” Varesco said. “The maturity level on his side is unbelievable.”
Cononie said he has high expectations, due in part to the relationship the Jaguars have with Varesco.
“He’s a very good coach,” Cononie said. “He knows what he’s doing. We have a lot of good chemistry with him.”
Junior right-hander Anthony Cianci and senior right-hander Austin Steele will also be key pitchers for Northwest.
In the infield, sophomore Mike Shannon is the Jaguars’ catcher, junior Joey Moeltner is the first baseman, senior Zack Bubb is at second and senior Jeffery Ta, a four-year varsity starter, is at third.
Ta played second base as a freshman and sophomore and catcher as a junior. He said the move to third base has been difficult, but he’s confident he’ll improve.
“He’s seen every kind of chemistry that we’ve brought through here --- what’s worked and what hasn’t worked, players-wise,” Varesco said. “I think he understands the right chemistry we need to win.”
Ta said he notices a difference with Varesco leading the Jaguars.
“He’s bringing the guys together,” Ta said, “so we’re more of a family.”
In the outfield, junior Steven D'Amato is the left fielder, junior Nick Siegel is in center and senior Alex Katz is in right.
Northwest is scheduled to host Springbrook at 3:30 p.m. today.
“I’ve got high expectations, Varesco said. “I’ve got high expectations for myself, I’ve got high expectations for my players. I don’t think we can go anywhere less than that.”