HYDE — With six lettermen, five of them returning starters, leading the way, the 2018 Clearfield Area High School baseball team will be aiming to make it four winning seasons in a row against what longtime coach Sid Lansberry has deemed a demanding schedule in and out of the Mountain League.
Seniors Seth Bumbarger, Jake Sorbera and Reese Wilson and juniors Ty Bender and Eli Glass own two letters apiece and will be the nucleus for Lansberry’s 47th Bison squad.
All have been two-year regulars at various positions.
Three of them started every game at the same position last year, Bumbarger at first base, Wilson in center field and Bender in right field.
Except for his four starts on the mound, Glass was at third base or shortstop.
Sorbera was the Bison ace with 10 pitching starts and also got the call at third base or left field in nine games.
Wilson’s .303 average last year tops the veterans. He had 20 hits, drove in 11 runs, scored 20 and led the team with 12 stolen bases in 14 attempts.
Glass shared RBI honors with 20 on 17 hits and two sacrifice flies, posting a .288 average on 17 hits, including five doubles and one of the Bison’s two triples.
Bumbarger earned most improved laurels with a .288 average on 19 hits with 12 RBIs.
Bender was right behind at .284 with 19 hits and 14 RBIs. He belted a team-high seven doubles and one of the four Bison home runs.
Senior Alec Graham is the other returnee, ticketed for regular duty after lettering primarily as a pinch-hitter, pinch-runner or courtesy runner last spring.
Plugging the holes left by four standouts who graduated will be a promising group of sophomores, three of whom saw varsity action during the Bison’s late-season surge from a 3-7 record to an 15-8 finish with a run highlighted by the program’s first District 9 championship since 2003.
After being moved up from the junior varsity the second week in May, Allen Myers provided a boost to the offense with a .400 average on eight hits in seven games, the last six as the designated hitter, and Harrison Peacock started at third base in four of the six games he played. Nate Barr had two appearances with one start as the DH.
Cade Walker, Caullin Read and Hayden Williams are the other sophs who will be vying for playing time, along with senior Tim Chelgren, junior Hunter Hipps and freshman Hunter Dixon.
Even with Sorbera and Glass back in the fold, pitching is an area of concern for Lansberry.
Sorbera had a 4-3 record and 2.57 earned run in 46-1/3 innings, striking out 38 while allowing 41 hits and 26 walks. Glass was 3-2 with a 4.90 record in 30 innings over eight appearances; he whiffed 16 and gave up 29 hits and 19 walks.
“After those two, we are very young,” Lansberry said. “Promising lefties Dixon and Walker are next on the depth chart.”
Peacock, Hipps and Williams probably will be counted on to eat up some innings, too, especially during multi-game weeks because of the pitch-count rule that was implemented by the PIAA last year.
Those hurlers will have to make up for the loss of Myers, who made seven starts in 11 appearances and had a 5-2 record with a 3.21 ERA, 48 strikeouts and 27 walks in 43-2/3 innings, and Hazel, who worked mostly in relief with a 3-1 record, a glittering 1.33 ERA, 23 strikeouts and just seven walks in 31-2/3 innings.
Barr, Myers and Bender are in the mix for the all-important job behind the plate with two-time All-Mountain League catcher Zane Morgan moving on to play at Juniata College after leading the Bison in hits (32), average (.400) and runs scored (22) while driving in 16 runs and stealing 11 bases. Barr probably will get the nod for the season opener against Central Tuesday.
The Bison are set at three infield spots.
First base is in the good hands of Bumbarger, with Walker his backup.
Shortstop belongs to Glass when not on the bump. He moved over from third base to occupy that position when Will Myers was pitching last season. Peacock, Barr or Reed will get the call at short on days that Glass is pitching.
The hot corner will be handled by Peacock, with Sorbera providing valuable experience there.
Lansberry labels second base as the biggest question mark going into the season, listing Barr, Williams and Reed as possibilities for replacing two-year starter Thayne Morgan, now patrolling center field for Penn State DuBois after earning All-Mountain League Second Team recognition with 25 hits, a .316 average, 20 runs and 10 stolen bases.
The outfield should be good with Wilson and Bender fixtures and Graham taking over in left for Tommy Hazel, another Mountain League Second Team All-Star who hit .353 with 24 hits, six of them doubles, and 20 RBIs.
Other candidates for fly chaser roles are Myers in left, Barr in center and Chelgren, Hipps and Myers in right.
If Lansberry opts for a designated hitter, Myers would be first in line, and the speedy Graham also could be utilized in that role.
“We have had a good off-season with great attendance at workouts, and most of our guys played a lot of baseball in the summer,” Lansberry said. “Overall, the attitude has been good.
“We’ve spent very little time on an actual baseball field so far, and with our early schedule, this is going to be a factor. We’re facing trips to Central and Huntingdon right away, and then we play Bellefonte in the home opener.”
He noted that Central (2017) and Bellefonte (2016) have won the last two PIAA Class AAA titles, and Central lost in the finals in 2015.
Lansberry speaks highly of all three, tabbing Huntingdon as the favorite with six players who have been recruited and signed by NCAA Division I and II schools and adding that Philipsburg-Osceola also has several top-notch players coming back.
Among the non-league opponents, Punxsutawney has two excellent pitchers, one a Division I commit, and St. Marys also has a college-bound pitcher.
“This looks like one of the toughest schedules we have faced in recent years,” declared Lansberry, whose Bison teams have a composite 602-415-3 record. “We are hoping to continue our winning ways, but it might be difficult to match last year’s record.”
Lansberry is assisted on the varsity level by Brandon Billotte (14th year) and Chris Peacock (13th) and volunteer Ed Yeager (29th).
Sean Zimmerman (4th), Brian Barr (2nd) and Eric Scaife are the junior varsity coaches.
The roster, with (*) indicating lettermen:
Seniors – Seth Bumbarger (*), 1b; Tim Chelgren, of; Alec Graham (*), of; Jake Sorbera (*), p, of, 3b; Reese Wilson (*), of, p.
Juniors – Ty Bender (*), c, of; Eli Glass (*), ss, p; Hunter Hipps, p, of.
Sophomores – Nate Barr, if, of, c; Allen Myers, c, of; Harrison Peacock, 3b, ss, p; Caullin Reed, if; Cade Walker, p, 1b, of; Hayden Williams, 2b, 3b, of.
Freshman – Hunter Dixon, p, of.
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The schedule, with (ML) for Mountain League games, home games in capitals and starting times 4:30 p.m. unless noted:
27 – at Central (ML); 31 – at Huntingdon (ML), 1 p.m.
3 – BELLEFONTE (ML); 5 – at Tyrone (ML); 10 – BALD EAGLE AREA (ML); 11 – at Punxsutawney; 13 – at Penns Valley (ML); 16 – PHILIPSBURG-OSCEOLA (ML); 19 – CENTRAL (ML); 20 – BRADFORD; 23 – at Curwensville; 24 – HUNTINGDON (ML); 27 – at Bellefonte (ML); 30 – TYRONE (ML).
1 – at Brookville, 4:15 p.m.; 3 – at Bald Eagle Area (ML); 8 – PENNS VALLEY (ML); 11 – at Philipsburg-Osceola (ML); 14 – DUBOIS; 15 – CURWENSVILLE.