HYDE — Six returning starters and a seventh letterman provide a solid foundation for the Clearfield Area High School baseball team that will be gunning for a fifth consecutive winning record in Sid Lansberry’s 48th season as head coach at his alma mater.
Continuing that streak and getting back to the District 9 Class AAAA championship game are the primary goals for the predominately-underclassmen team.
Last year, the Bison suffered a heart-breaking 3-2 loss to St. Marys in the district finals for a 12-6 finish, and the lone senior veteran is Eli Glass, a three-year letterman who was an All-Mountain League Second Team selection at shortstop and also excelled on the mound until an injury relegated him to designated hitter and outfield duty.
The other returnees, all juniors, are catcher Allen Myers, infielders Hayden Williams, Caullin Reed and Harrison Peacock, outfielder Nate Barr and pitcher-outfielder Cade Walker, the latter called up from the junior varsity to make three starts after Glass was unavailable.
Senior pitcher-outfielder Hunter Hipps is the only other upperclassman.
“Even with only two seniors on the roster, we still should be able to put an experienced team on the field,” Lansberry said. “All of the lettermen played a lot of ball over the summer, too.
“The question mark is pitching. It almost always is. We don’t have a lot of varsity experience except for Glass.”
The right-hander, who has committed to play at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, was on his way to a banner season in teaming with Jake Sorbera to give the Bison an outstanding starting duo.
Glass was 5-0 with a glittering 1.08 earned run average in eight appearances after going 3-2 with a 4.90 ERA in eight games as a sophomore. He’s logged 56.1 innings with 49 strikeouts and 30 walks during his career.
Next in line are a trio of left-handers in Walker, sophomore Hunter Dixon and Hipps, which Lansberry noted makes the staff very unusual for a high school team.
Walker split two decisions and also recorded a save in his four appearances, working 12.2 innings with a 4.42 ERA. Dixon won his only start and Hipps was tagged with one loss in two starts with a 3.68 ERA for four outings.
Peacock, Barr and Williams will be counted on for spot duty if necessary.
Glass, when not pitching, will be at first base and fielding throws from Williams at second, Reed at short and Peacock at third. All four can be shifted to other infield positions, too.
Sophomore Karson Rumsky will move to first base when Glass is on the bump, and freshman Kyle Elensky can handle any of the other three jobs.
“Infield defense should be a strong point,” Lansberry proclaimed.
Two outfield roles are set, Barr in center and Walker in either left or right when not pitching.
In the mix for the third post are sophomore Nick Domico, Hipps and Rumsky, with Glass a possibility if needed.
Backing Myers behind the plate will be sophomore Matt Bailor and Barr.
Should Lansberry pencil in a designated hitter, Hipps or Domico will get the call.
That decision will depend on how well the regulars are doing at the plate.
Last year, the Bison hit .277 and averaged six runs a game.
Glass led the Bison in almost every offensive category last spring, joining the Bison .500 Club with 26 hits, including 10 doubles and two home runs, drawing 16 walks, scoring 20 runs and driving in 10. His career average is .440 with 48 hits.
Barr came through with 22 hits for a .361 average and scored a team-high 22 runs.
Reed hit .265 after breaking into the lineup, and Williams finished at .263 in a limited number of at-bats.
“They have to step it up, but this team has the potential to score a lot of runs,” Lansberry said. “I’m basing that on how much they played in the summer.”
Practices have been outside more than in recent years, just not on the Bison Sports Complex diamond.
“We’ve been on the (football field) turf,” Lansberry said. “Our field is not dry enough yet. We have had two scrimmages, though, which is unusual.”
The Bison will open the season with a pair of Mountain League road games, Monday against Bald Eagle Area at Wingate and Thursday at Huntingdon.
Lansberry expects those two teams as well as Bellefonte and Philipsburg-Osceola to be among the tougher opponents on the schedule but quickly added, “There are no easy opponents in the Mountain League.”
He rates St. Marys and Punxsutawney as very formidable foes for districts.
The Bison will be at home for nine of 12 games in April before closing with five of six games on the road in May.
Three-year lettermen Sorbera, Reese Wilson and Seth Bumbarger, Alec Graham and Tim Chelgren were the seniors on last year’s team.
The Bison also are missing Ty Bender, a three-year outfield starter with 49 hits and a .280 average who did not report for his senior season.
Sorbera was 4-3 for the third season in a row, working 50.2 innings in nine appearances, eight of them starts, with a 1.52 ERA. He allowed 49 hits and 11 earned runs, struck out 37 and walked only 13. His three-year stats show a 2.27 ERA for 126.2 innings in 23 starts and five relief stints. He saw action in left field, too, and had a .222 batting average.
Wilson anchored the outfield in center, hitting .214 following .286 and .303 seasons, and was 1-1 with a 1.68 ERA in five relief appearances, while first baseman Bumbarger had a .333 batting average and a team-high 18 RBIs after hitting .288 with 12 RBIs as a junior.
Sorbera and Bumbarger are playing at Penn State DuBois.
Assisting Lansberry, whose 47 Bison teams were a combined 614-421-3, are Brandon Billotte (15th year), Chris Peacock (14th) and volunteer Ed Yeager (30th).
The roster, with (*) indicating lettermen:
Seniors – Eli Glass (*), p, if, of; Hunter Hipps, p, of.
Juniors – Nate Barr (*) of, c, p; Allen Myers (*), c, of; Harrison Peacock (*), 3b, ss, p; Caullin Reed (*), ss, 2b; Cade Walker (*), p, of; Hayden Williams (*), 2b, 3b, p.
Sophomores – Matt Bailor, c; Hunter Dixon, p, of; Nick Domico, of, 1b; Karson Rumsky, 1b, of.
Freshman – Kyle Elensky, if, 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:
25 – Bald Eagle Area (ML); 28 – at Huntingdon (ML).
2 – PHILIPSBURG-OSCEOLA (ML); 4 – CURWENSVILLE; 5 – at Tyrone (ML); 8 – PENNS VALLEY (ML); 9 – BROOKVILLE; 11 – at Central (ML); 16 – BELLEFONTE (ML); 18 – BALD EAGLE AREA (ML); 23 – HUNTINGDON (ML); 25 – at Philipsburg-Osceola (ML); 29 – PUNXSUTAWNEY; 30 – TYRONE (ML).
3 – at Penns Valley (ML); 6 – CENTRAL (ML); 8 at Bradford, 4:15 p.m.; 9 – at Bellefonte (ML); 13 – at Curwensville, 4:15 p.m.; 16 – at DuBois.