For several Greater Pittston athletes, Penn State Wilkes-Barre was a chance to continue their baseball-playing careers. A group of five local players are doing just that.
Pittston Area graduates John Fagotti, Michael Delaney, Bobby Swartz and Danny Costantino, along with Wyoming Area graduate John Colwell, are all contributing to the Mountain Lions baseball team this spring. Fagotti is a starting pitcher and Delaney is the team’s center fielder and leadoff hitter. Colwell plays the outfield, while Swartz catches and Costantino pitches.
The eldest of the bunch, Colwell, 24, is happy to be back playing baseball. A 2010 graduate, Colwell returned to Penn State Wilkes-Barre after spending a few years at University Park. It was a way for him to get his grades up, he said. Playing baseball was something he had to get used to again.
The WA grad said it took him some time to find his groove, but finally feels comfortable.
“The first couple weeks it was pretty hard to make contact,” he laughed. “I had to start from square one.”
Being the elder statesman, Colwell said the only different is he has “different tastes” than his teammates. He didn’t think playing college baseball was in the cards when he came back to Penn State Wilkes-Barre, but he said he’s really enjoyed being around the other players.
“I’m six years removed from high school baseball,” he said. “I love being around these guys and it’s been a great experience for my first year back.”
Colwell will finish his degree in criminal justice in just a few weeks. In six games this season, Colwell is hitting .273 while playing mostly in the outfield.
Patriots back together
The four players from Pittston Area are a tight bunch. Costantino, a sophomore, said he reached out to some of his old teammates and told them about the program.
“We have great chemistry with each other and know how to play the game,” he said. “We’ve been playing since ninth grade.”
Fagotti said it’s nice to see some familiar faces while playing a sport they all love.
“It’s a blast, especially playing with (Delaney) and the whole team,” he said. “It’s basically like playing for an all-star team. It makes it everyone more comfortable.”
Fagotti graduated from Pittston Area in 2015. He was an honorable mention on the Wyoming Valley Conference All-Star team. During last season at Pittston Area, Fagotti was a key factor in Pittston Area coach Paul Zaffuto’s team.
The best outing of Fagotti’s career at Pittston Area came in one of the team’s biggest games. Against Wyoming Area in the annual Ashby Game at PNC Field, Fagotti picked up the win and was named the Most Valuable Player. He tossed a complete game and allowed just six hits in the win.
For Penn State Wilkes-Barre, Fagotti picked up his first career conference win by tossing a complete game, six-hitter against Penn State Worthington Scranton on April 6.
When Fagotti is on the mound for the Mountain Lions, his battery mate is usually fellow 2015 Pittston Area grad Bobby Swartz.
In four games this season, the catcher is hitting .286 with a .444 on-base percentage.
“I love it, that’s why I came here,” Swartz said. “I wanted to continue to play baseball. It’s all like high school again. I love playing with them again.”
Swartz is studying engineering and plans on finishing his degree at University Park. He said the system Zaffuto ran at Pittston Area is similar to Penn State Wilkes-Barre coach Michael Tierney. Tierney is a Wyoming Area graduate and owns and operates the MVP Sports Academy in Exeter.
Delaney, the freshman leadoff hitter for Penn State Wilkes-Barre, is hitting .344 this season while driving in three runs from the top of the lineup. He leads the team in plate appearances and his seven runs scored lead the team.
“(Tierney) is trying to turn the program around,” Delaney said. “We all have good chemistry and we’re having fun and taking it day by day.”
Costantino, a 2014 graduate of Pittston Area, is a relief pitcher for the Mountain Lions. Costantino has made four appearances this season and has allowed six runs in just over eight innings of work.
Costantino is studying business management.
“It’s fun because it’s a lot different than high school,” Costantino said. “You’re always playing better players than in high school.”
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick