CURWENSVILLE — The majority of the 10 lettermen on the 2013 Curwensville Area High School baseball team were in the starting lineup when the Golden Tide surfaced to go on a 7-7 run after losing its first five games last spring.
Coach Denny Johns is hoping that experience, coupled with a much healthier pitching corps, bodes well for a quicker start to his fourth season at the helm.
“We’ve got to instill that winning attitude in these kids,” he said. “Our main goal is to be a little bit better in every phase of the game than we were the day before.”
Then, the Golden Tide can set its sights on contending for the Moshannon Valley League and District 9 Northern Allegany Small School Southern Division titles on the way to a winning record.
“That will be a challenge, because there are a lot of talented players in the Mo Valley League and the district,” Johns said.
And, like every other team in the area, the Golden Tide is behind schedule.
“Weather has really hampered us,” Johns said. “We’re doing as much as we can indoors, but we’re limited to what we can do. We really need the benefit of getting on the field.
“Right now, we’re relying on the lettermen. They’ve lived it, and they understand what it takes to be successful at the high school level.”
The returnees are seniors Kyle, Jason and Curt Bloom, Jordan Russell, Brad Coudriet and Hunter McCracken, juniors Kyle Johns, Brett Gardner and Tanner Elensky and sophomore Jake B. Stiles.
Curwensville is well-stocked with pitchers, partially a result of injuries that were a problem last season.
“One of my main reasons for optimism is that we have seven or eight guys with experience coming back and, at this point, they’re healthy,” coach Johns said. “We were plagued with a lot of arm problems last year, and we were struggling to find healthy arms to finish the season.
“It’ll be my job to be smart and not overwork any of those kids and maintain that health through this season.”
Back as the top two starters are Kyle Johns, who was 4-4 with a 5.03 earned in 40.1 innings, and Gardner, 1-3 with a 3.29 ERA in 34 innings.
Junior Ricky Magnuson or Kyle Bloom (1-1 in 12 innings) are in line for the No. 3 job, as present plans prescribe relief roles for Russell (1-2 in eight innings) and McCracken, both of whom were bothered by shoulder problems as juniors.
Coach Johns won’t hesitate to call on Jason and Curt Bloom for long relief, as well as Elensky or Stiles if needed.
The only players assured of positions so far are Kyle Bloom (.355, 20 runs batted in) behind the plate for the third year in a row, Stiles (.375) at third base after winning the job midway through last season and Elensky (.311, 23 runs, 18-for-19 stolen bases) at shortstop.
“Other than that, it’s pretty wide open,” coach Johns said. “We have 12 or 13 for a rotation, and whoever swings the bat consistently is going to find time in the field.”
Jason Bloom, Magnuson, McCracken (.286) and Gardner are candidates to plug the two spots on the right side of the infield, while Russell (.258), Coudriet, Johns (.263 with a .440 on-base average), Curt Bloom and Alex Olson are vying to be the outfielders in the starting lineup.
McCracken or Olson will do the catching when Kyle Bloom goes to the mound.
Seniors on the 2012 team were outfielder-third baseman Jesse Zorger (.351, 17 RBI), first baseman-pitcher Boone McGary (.345, 19 RBI), third baseman Todd Munchak, outfielder Alex Holland and reserve Alex Holt.
Ryan Bilger, Adam McGary and Tom Harzinski are Golden Tide assistant coaches.
The Golden Tide roster, with (*) designating letterman:
Seniors – Kyle Bloom (*), c, p; Jason Bloom (*), p, if; Curt Bloom (*), p, of; Jordan Russell (*), p, of; Brad Coudriet (*), of; Hunter McCracken (*), p, if, c.
Juniors – Kyle Johns (*), p, if, of; Brett Gardner (*), p, if; Tanner Elensky (*), if, p; Ricky Magnuson, p, if; Alex Olson, c, if, of; Victor DeJesus, c.
Sophomores – Jake B. Stiles (*), if, p; Travis Lansberry, p, if, of; A.J. Bloom, if; Harrison Bloom, if, of; Nate Hall, c; Jake C. Stiles, if, of.
Freshmen – Jake Terry, p, if; Gage Baughman, p, if; Noah Strickland, p, of; Ben Junod, of; Logan Charles, of; R.J. Olson, if; Trevor Anderson, p, of; Seth Sloppy, c, if; Kesean Newkirk, of; Quomone Newkirk, if, of; Kyle Shaw, if, of; Hunter Lancaster, p, c, if; Jeff Harvey, of.
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The schedule, with home games in capitals and (MVL) for Moshannon Valley League games and (D9NAL) for District 9 Northern Allegany League Small School South Division games:
(All games at 4:15 p.m. unless noted)
25 – at Johnsonburg (D9NAL); 27 – DUBOIS CENTRAL CATHOLIC (D9NAL).
3 – HARMONY (MVL); 6 – Central (Va.), 11 a.m., and either Millbrook or Broadway (W.Va.) in Harry Combs Classic at Woodstock, Va. (DH); 8 – KANE (D9NAL); 10 – at Elk County Catholic (D9NAL); 12 – at Moshannon Valley (MVL); 16 – BROCKWAY (D9NAL); 18 – RIDGWAY (D9NAL); 19 – at Brookville; 22 – JOHNSONBURG (D9NAL); 24 – at DuBois Central Catholic (D9NAL); 29 – WEST BRANCH (MVL).
2 – at Kane (D9NAL); 3 – GLENDALE (MVL); 6 – ELK COUNTY CATHOLIC (D9NAL); 8 – at Brockway (D9NAL); 9 – BROOKVILLE; 15 – at Ridgway (D9NAL), 4 p.m.