After nine seasons of bleeding red and blue as Pittston Area’s starting shortstop and infield coach, Rob Lemoncelli is going to need a transfusion of green and gold.
On Thursday, he will make his debut as head coach of the Patriots’ traditional rival, Wyoming Area, when the Warriors open the 2018 season at Tunkhannock.
Lemoncelli, 27, was hired in October after Ron Musto stepped down after coaching 20 seasons at WA in two different stints.
The Warriors won five division titles under Musto, including consecutive WVC Division 2 titles in 2015 and 2016. But the Warriors never won a District 2 championship. They lost by one run in D2 semifinal games in 2015 and 2016.
Lemoncelli hopes to change that by “changing the culture,”
“We are emphasizing positivity, high energy, mental awareness, going 100 percent every pitch,” Lemoncelli said.
He’s also an advocate for weight training.
“The kids bought into it. They are in the weight room every day getting bigger, faster, stronger,” he said. “We want to put the kids in position to make a run at a district title, the program’s first.”
Lemoncelli said weight training for baseball is different than football reps.
“We focus more on lower body and core strength,” he said. “Strength-wise we think we’ll be up there with bigger teams.”
Lemoncelli is in his fourth year as a special education teacher at Wyoming Area, which makes transitioning from a Patriot to a Warrior a little easier than it might be cold, but it still feels a little weird.
“I had nervous feelings in the beginning,” he said. “But now I couldn’t be any happier. The kids bought into what we’re trying to do and that made the job easier.”
Though taking the Wyoming Area job meant leaving Pittston Area, it was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.
“I learned a lot from coach Zaffuto at Pittston Area,” Lemoncelli said. “I consider him the best coach in the WVC. Thanks to him I’m ready to take over a program.”
For assistants, he brought Dom Bartoli with him from Pittston Area and hired Sean Rooney, who played for Seton Catholic and was a teammate of Lemoncelli’s at King’s College.
Bartoli is the pitching coach and Rooney handles the outfielders. Lemoncelli said his father, Robert, is a volunteer bench coach.
Lemoncelli said they want to play a proactive and team-first style.
“Our philosophy is we set the tone,” Lemoncelli said. “Work fast, throw strikes, control the game. It’s not about individual awards or stats. It’s about the team winning day in and day out.”
The Wyoming Area-Pittston Area Andy Ashby Game is April 19 at Wyoming Area.
Lemoncelli will try to approach it as just another game, though he admits he expects some emotion.
“There’s a lot of hype around the game,” he said. “We’ll try to stay on an even keel. I think I’ll have some nerves, but the kids will be ready to go.”
Though the Warriors lost a lot of key players to graduation, Lemoncelli likes the mix of seniors and underclassmen he has.
He has senior leaders like Marc Minichello, Matt Wright and Dylan Melberger, all multi-sport athletes, and some talented sophomores led by Chase Yochem.
Lemoncelli is engaged to Kristen Baumes, a former PA great in her own right as a 1,000-point scorer in basketball.