Altoona Johnston Realty returns 12 players from last year’s AAABA Tournament semifinalist team and another who played in the tournament two years ago.

Manager Craig Treese believes this experienced group can propel Johnston Realty to a long stay in the 75th annual AAABA Tournament.

“One of the strengths we have is our core group is back from last year,” said Treese, whose Altoona team won its first four games before being eliminated by eventual champion Johnstown Martella’s Pharmacy.

“The guys got some good experience in the tournament, going to the semifinal. We have a really good group of kids. 

“They’re poised and ready to play.”

Altoona opened with wins over Brooklyn-1 (11-5), Columbus (7-4), Youngstown (14-4) and Buffalo-2 (4-3).

Martella’s Pharmacy edged Johnston Realty 6-5 at Sargent’s Stadium on the fifth day to send Altoona home with a 4-1 record.

“A lot of things went our way last year,” Treese said. “Our pitching staff really stepped up. The first four games we used only two pitchers a game. That’s rare when playing nine innings.”

Infielders Lane Wertz, Adam Bankovich, Trenton Creppage, Lennox Pugh and Tyler Treese are back as well as outfielders Frank Montecalvo and Keegan Soltis.

Returnees with pitching experience are Ben Briggs, Brenden Hileman, Alex Mykut, Cory Storm and Drew Weglarz.

Pitcher Brian Egan played for Altoona two years ago.

“Storm, Pugh, Weglarz, Creppage, Montecalvo, Treese, they were a big part of last year and 

“I’m hoping they have a big part this year,” Craig Treese said.

“Alex Mykut pitched really well for us last year. This year he didn’t do as much pitching during the regular season because he was in the Valley League in Maryland,” he added. 

“Ben Briggs is pitching well again. We picked up a new guy Gage Coudriet and he’s been pitching well for us.”

The roster includes college players from Pitt-Johnstown (four), Seton Hill University (three), Penn State-Altoona (three), Mount Aloysius (one), Millersville University (one), Indiana (Pa.) (one) and Wilkes University (one).

Johnston Realty also had a tight race with Cumming Motors in the Altoona AAABA League as well as stiff competition against Altoona’s Greater City League teams in crossover play.

“It will help us. The other AAABA team was really competitive,” Craig Treese said. 

“We were neck and neck down the wire to get into the tournament. The Altoona City League, the top three or four teams were really competitive. I think it will help us. We got down to a few of those teams and fought back.”

Former Altoona Johnston Realty manager Ron Fiochetta was inducted posthumously into the AAABA Hall of Fame Class of 2019 on Saturday.

“When I was younger he was a big-time coach for the AAABA and got things going for the Altoona team,” Craig Treese said. 

“He brought in good players. It’s nice to see him going in this year.” 

Mike Mastovich is a sports reporter and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5083. Follow him on Twitter @Masty81.