Season Preview: Success for Bison Baseball Team Predicated on Overall Improvement

HYDE – Improvement is the buzzword for the Clearfield Area High School baseball team this spring.
 
And better numbers will be needed in all phases of the game for a squad that boasts 10 lettermen, including the entire mound staff and regulars at all but two positions.
 
The 2008 Bisons, a predominately-underclassman squad, hit just .241, while the pitchers posted a composite 6.07 earned run average.
 
Only two Bison starters had batting averages higher than .250, only five reached double figures in hits and only three scored more than nine runs.
 
Also, the low total of extra base hits, 26, factored into an unusually high average of 10 runners left on base.
 
Opponents scored nine or more runs in 12 games, with defensive lapses costing the Bisons 53 unearned runs.
 
After an 0-9 start, the Bisons finished 6-15, half of the wins coming in their surprising charge to the sixth annual Dean Patterson Curve Class championship at Altoona in late April.
 
How dramatically the returnees and newcomers improve those statistics is the big question mark.
 
Coach Sid Lansberry does have two important goals for his 38th Bison team, raising the batting average by 40 points and lowering the ERA by approximately 35 percent.
 
\”That would be a vast improvement, but I think we have to hit .280 and get our ERA around four to be competitive with the schedule we have,\” he said.
 
Clutch hitting will be crucial, too.
 
\”We definitely left way too many men on base last year,\” Lansberry added. \”We had several starters under .200. We\’ve got to hit better when it counts and hit with more power.\”
 
A pair of two-year letterwinning senior veterans, left fielder Tanner St. Clair and second baseman Jarrin Campman, will be counted on to show the way after batting .369 and .364, respectively, with 24 hits apiece last year.
 
St. Clair, who was named Most Valuable Player of the Dean Patterson Curve Classic, accounted for 10 of the extra base blows with five of the team\’s six home runs, one of the two triples and four doubles. Batting in the No. 3 spot, he drove in a team-high 21 runs after knocking in 13 as a sophomore. He scored 15 runs.
 
Campman, the ideal leadoff batter, struck out only six times and reached base on 45 of his 82 plate appearances, had 22 stolen bases and scored 23 runs.
 
Senior shortstop-pitcher Parker Herrington and sophomore third baseman Derek Danver are the only other returnees who had double-digit hits, both averaging .246.
 
Herrington, the No. 2 hitter, collected 15 safeties and scored 15 runs.
 
Clean-up batter Danver began his varsity career with 16 hits and 13 RBIs. He matched St. Clair for team honors with four doubles and one triple.
 
Production behind that quartet will be all-important if the Bisons are to sustain rallies and boost their average of 4.4 runs per game.
 
This week\’s annual Southern Trip, with Norfolk, Va., the destination, will help determine which spots the other lettermen will fill, at least to start the season.
 
Pitcher-first basemen Michael Moyer and Corey Bookhamer and outfielder Aaron Sayers are seniors. Moyer and Sayers missed the .200 mark by one hit. Bookhamer needed two more. 
 
Catcher Matt Lonjin, who will get his chance to hit after having only five at-bats in 2008, second baseman Isaac Butler (.364 in 22 official-at bats) and outfielder Justin Hoffman (.217) are juniors.
 
Like last year, Moyer and Bookhamer, Clearfield\’s lone southpaw, should get most of the work on the mound.
 
Moyer (3-7, 4.79 ERA) struck out 58 and walked 28 in 52-2/3 innings, while Bookhamer (2-3, 5.50) fanned 19 and walked 22 in 42 innings. Moyer, who was 2-4 as the No. 3 starter in his sophomore season, pitched in 11 games, Bookhamer in 10.
 
Herrington (1-1, 5.72) will handle the duties of closer but also will be utilized as a spot starter, and Sayers (0-3) will get the call if games are backed up because of weather. Each appeared in six games, Sayers pitching 13-1/3 innings and Herrington working 11.
 
Hoffman (0-1, 3.01), Butler and possibly sophomores Trevor Flanagan and Tyler Jacobson will provide depth. Hoffman pitched 9-1/3 innings in five games. Butler logged 10 innings in four games. 
 
All of the pitchers gained mound experience in American Legion or Babe Ruth League last summer and some in Fall Ball, too.
 
\”Moyer and Bookie both are throwing a little bit harder,\” Lansberry said. \”I would like to keep Herrington as a reliever, but I might have to use him as a starter. Sayers has had some arm problems, but I think he\’ll be okay. They are our top four right now.
 
\”The second half of last season, our pitching got better, but it has to continue to improve.\”
 
Defensively, the Bisons should be able to reduce the number of unearned runs.
 
Lonjin turned in to a solid defensive backstop and the rest of the inner defense also figures to be a positive.
 
\”That should be a strong point for us,\” Lansberry said.
 
Soph Andy Redden will be back up Lonjin, though Lansberry prefers that he handle the junior varsity pitchers. If necessary, Danver can go behind the plate.
 
Senior Matt Flanagan gives the Bisons an additional glove at first base, junior Chad Zurat can play both corners and junior Luke Peterson is another middle infielder.
 
When Herrington goes to the mound, Danver will shift to shortstop and Jacobson or Flanagan will go to third base.
 
St. Clair, Sayers and Hoffman will patrol the outfield. Senior Kyle Timchak, juniors Jason Bowman, Garrett Samsel and Wil Beauseigneur and Redden are the other flychasers.
 
Lansberry\’s not quite sure what he\’ll do when Sayers is called on to pitch.
 
\”Campman is a heck of a center fielder,\” he said. \”That\’s where he played a lot in Legion ball last year. If we move him out there, Butler can play second base.\”
 
After practicing outdoors only on the grass in the Clearfield Driving Park oval, the Bisons finally will work out on a diamond at Norfolk Wednesday and then play an intra-squad scrimmage game. They open against Norfolk (Va.) Collegiate High School Friday.
 
While hoping the Bisons can become competitive, Lansberry declined to project how much success they might be able to achieve against a rugged schedule that was impacted by the downsizing of the Central Penn League and the formation of a District 9 League.
 
Clearfield, which faces Class AAAA teams eight times, has only seven home games.
 
Philipsburg-Osceola, Bald Eagle Area, Bellefonte, Central Mountain and Lewistown dropped out of the CPL to join the all-sports Mountain Athletic Conference.
 
Lansberry pointed out that all except Central Mountain would have played at the Bison Sports Complex this season.
 
The CPL, which lost Indian Valley and Huntingdon to the Mountain League two years ago, will operate with eight teams, including newcomer St. Marys.
 
Lansberry rates reigning champ Williamsport and perennial contender State College as the CPL favorites.
 
\”We\’ve seen these Williamsport kids in Babe Ruth All-Stars three years now, and this should be a good year for them,\” he said. \”You\’ve got to look at State College. If they don\’t win it, they\’re always going to be right up there.
 
\”DuBois has all those of kids back who won the Senior Little League states two years ago. And you can never count out Punxsutawney because of their feeder system. They have three good pitchers this year.
 
\”St. Marys is loaded for its first year in the CPL. They\’re making steps to try to improve, and I give them credit there.
 
\”And Altoona and Hollidaysburg are just good, solid teams. We\’ve competed with them over the years. We don\’t always beat them, though.\”
 
Lansberry is delighted Clearfield, DuBois, Punxsutawney, St. Marys, Brookville and Bradford banded together for the D-9 League.
 
\”This is something I\’ve wanted for a long time,\” he said. \”I think in the past it was because we had a league and they had their schedules, so we couldn\’t get it together. Now, we\’re playing all of those teams twice.\”
 
The Bisons also will play Altoona and Hollidaysburg two times to help those CPL foes fill out their schedules.
 
Only the first games against CPL teams will count in the league.
 
Late next month, Clearfield will return to the Blair County Ballpark, home of the Class AA Altoona Curve, to defend its Dean Patterson Curve Classic crown.
 
The only seniors on last year\’s team were starting outfielders David Ryan and David Welker and reserve outfielder and pinch-hitter Chris Barr.
 
Former Curwensville head coach Bear Stewart, Brian Barr and Chris Peacock will assist Lansberry, whose 37-year totals are 508-323-3.
 
Donnie Shimmel, Brandon Billotte and volunteer Kyle Wright are the junior varsity coaches.
 
Volunteer Ed Yeager will help where needed.
 
The roster, with letterwinners denoted by (*):
 
Seniors – Corey Bookhamer (*), p, 1b; Jarrin Campman (*), 2b, cf; Matt Flanagan, 1b; Parker Herrington (*), ss, p; Michael Moyer (*), p, 1b; Aaron Sayers (*), of, p; Tanner St. Clair (*), of; Kyle Timchak, of.
 
Juniors – Will Beauseigneur, of; Jason Bowman, of; Isaac Butler (*), p, 2b; Justin Hoffman (*), of, p; Matt Lonjin (*), c; Luke Peterson, 2b, ss; Garrett Samsel, of; Chad Zurat, 1b, 3b.
 
Sophomores – Derek Danver (*), 3b, ss, c; Trevor Flanagan, 3b, p; Tyler Jacobson, 3b, p; Andrew Redden, c, of.
 
* * *
 
The schedule, with home games in capitals, (CPL) for Central Penn League and (D9L) for District 9 League:
 
(All games at 4:30 p.m. unless noted)
 
March
20 – at Norfolk (Va.) Collegiate High School, 4 p.m.; 24 – at State College (CPL); 30 – at DuBois (D9L and CPL).
 
April
3 – at Altoona (CPL); 6 – BRADFORD (D9L); 8 – at Punxsutawney (D9L and CPL); 15 – ST. MARYS (D9L and CPL); 18 – at Westmont-Hilltop, 11 a.m.; 20 – at Williamsport (CPL); 22 – BROOKVILLE (D9L); 24 – Hollidaysburg (CPL) in Dean Patterson Curve Classic at Altoona, 12:30 p.m.; 25 – TBA in Dean Patterson Curve Classic; 27 – DUBOIS (D9L and CPL); 29 – at Bradford (D9L), 4:15 p.m.
 
May
1 – HOLLIDAYSBURG; 4 – PUNXSUTAWNEY (D9L); 6 – at St. Marys (D9L), 4:15 p.m.; 13 – at Brookville (D9L), 4 p.m.; 15 – ALTOONA.
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