The focus now for high school baseball is to move one game at a time, knowing that at any moment that one game could be the last for the year. It’s time to make a run towards the PIAA playoffs, and possibly a championship.
That is what Curwensville is now hoping for after a successful 2018 campaign on the diamond.
After struggling to find consistency the last few seasons, the Golden Tide came out this year firing off extremely well, finding their stride early in the season, and then pulling off extremely strong performances as the regular season drew to a close. In the end, the Tide finished their season with a 10-8 record, which is their first winning season in four years. It also was a strong enough run to give Curwensville the 2018 Moshannon Valley League championship, the first goal they had for the year.
Now, the post season begins with another road contest, which is something Curwensville has become used to in the latter part of the season.
The final seven games of the season saw Curwensville be the host of only two at their home diamond, excluding the second game of a double-header against Kane as part of a weather make-up.
But, that is also the time when Curwensville began not just having success on defense, but their bats were coming out quickly, and often.
In their last five games, Curwensville scored 53 runs, an average of 10.6 runs per game. But what is more impressive is that three of those games only went five innings. The final five games of the year saw the Tide at-bat in 29 innings; that averages out to just under two runs per inning.
The lone game where Curwensville did not score a run was in their season finale against DuBois Central Catholic, where they were held without a run and without a hit in a 7-0 loss.
For Curwensville to succeed, they need to have that kind of success when they face the Brookville Raiders.
The way they do that is to utilize the middle of their lineup, which this season has been their anchor and has the best averages. Catcher Avery Francisco is third in their lineup most of the time, and he’s been swinging hard all season. Francisco this year has a .455 batting average, going 25-for-55 with 21 RBIs and 19 runs scored. He also averages a .544 OBP (on-base percentage) thanks to those 25 hits, but also has walked nine times, and reached on an error on three occasions, plus was hit three times.
If Francisco doesn’t reach base, but runners are in position, that’s not a big issue for Curwensville as batting fourth in their lineup is Bryce Timko, the lone lefty on the team.
The senior has a batting average of .356 this year, with 13 RBIs, 17 runs scored, and has accounted for two of the team’s three home runs that have come in the last month.
Should these two continue their strong runs this year, teammates Josh Terry and Jake McCracken can only feed of that success as they too have had strong seasons, averaging .317 and .267, respectively.
All that success at the plate doesn’t always translate to victories, which is exactly why being strong on defense, whether it be in the field or on the mound, is also needed.
For Curwensville, Timko has been the backbone of the pitching rotation for the last three years, and this season he has been more than exceptional. He started eight games this season, and took home an undefeated 6-0 record, with the other two “non-decision” games being split 1-1.
In those eight games, he gave up a total of four runs, three of them earned.
Timko’s left arm stayed strong all season long, and he was dealing like he was a croupier at a blackjack table. He finished the regular season with an unbelievable 83 strikeouts, while walking just 27 batters, and an incredible ERA of .44.
No other pitcher in the Tide rotation is close to those statistics. Second in line is Noah VonGunden, who finished this year with a 2-4 record, with an ERA of 2.72.
But in the rotation of pitchers, the one player that has not gotten a lot of credit has been McCracken, who usually is the one that comes in to save the victory for the Tide. He has played in 12 games this year, with four saves to his credit. He also earned the first victory of his career in a nail-biter of a game against the Black Knights of Moshannon Valley that ended in a 1-0 walk-off.
McCracken could be the one to rely on this post season as he’s proved to be the “Closer” so to speak for the Tide, and he definitely has earned it.
It’s those kind of details that will be important when Curwensville takes on Brookville.
At the plate, the Raiders are relying on Aaron Park, Seth Dunkle and Brady Caylor to get some hits and bring in some runs. Park has a .447 average this season, compiling 21 hits, 13 runs and 10 RBIs for his effort. Dunkle has a slightly less batting average at .345, but he also has the most extra-base hits for Brookville with seven doubles. Then Caylor, who despite having the lowest batting average of the three at a .304, has accounted for the second-most runs on the team with 14.
These three will need a big game to be able to compete with the surging Tide.
What they also will need to do is rely on pitching. Dunkle has, like Timko, been the star for the season. He finished with a 4-1 record in his seven appearances this year. He only gave up 11 runs, two of them earned. This could potentially set up an ace vs. ace matchup to start the playoffs.
Both teams will have a tough decision should they decide to go with their best player on the mound, or rely on others in the rotation to let them advance through.
No one will know until the teams take to the field in Brookville on Tuesday, with first pitch set for 4:30 p.m.
Golden Tide Scoreboard:
Date Opponent Score Record
3/23 @ Broadalbin-Perth, NY 1 – 2, 8 inn. 0 – 1
3/24 @ Friends Select School, PA 9 – 2 1 – 1
3/27 BROCKWAY ppd. 1 – 1
3/29 @ Punxsutawney ppd. 1 – 1
4/05 @ Elk County Catholic ppd. 1 – 1
4/06 @ West Branch 3 – 0 2 – 1
4/09 @ Johnsonburg ppd. 2 – 1
4/10 ELK COUNTY CATHOLIC 5 – 3 3 – 1
4/14 JOHNSONBURG 2 – 5 3 – 2
4/14 JOHNSONBURG 5 – 0 4 – 2
4/16 @ Glendale ppd. 4 – 2
4/17 @ Kane ppd. 4 – 2
4/19 @ DuBois Central Catholic 3 – 0 5 – 2
4/20 PUNXSUTAWNEY 1 – 2 5 – 3
4/23 CLEARFIELD 2 – 7 5 – 4
4/24 @ Brockway 3 – 7 5 – 5
4/26 MO VALLEY 1 – 0 6 – 5
4/30 BROCKWAY 3 – 1 7 – 5
5/01 @ Elk County Catholic 6 – 12 7 – 6
5/07 @ Harmony 18 – 0 8 – 6
5/08 @ Glendale 17 – 2 9 – 6
5/09 @ Kane 12 – 2 10 – 6
5/09 @ Kane 5 – 6 10 – 7
5/15 @ Clearfield cancelled 10 – 7
5/16 DUBOIS CENTRAL CATH. ppd. 10 – 7
5/17 DUBOIS CENTRAL CATH. 0 – 7 10 – 8
5/22 District 9 AA Playoffs
5/22 @ Brookville