By Kenny Varner
LEWISTOWN – After getting a taste of the post season last year, the MIfflin County baseball team is looking for a return engagement.
The faces will be quite different than last year’s as the Huskies are introducing a youth movement in its system. The team is not rebuilding but reloading as the season will soon be underway.
Playing in the always tough Mid-Penn Commonwealth division, the Huskies will once again be led by seasoned coach John McGonigle.
Assisting McGonigle will be some familiar faces in MIfflin County baseball history in Cody Heane, Kalen Gearhart and Nick Wolfkill, JD Wise, Kevin Reigle, Carson King, Josh Nichols and Isaac Maclay and Cole Knable.
Despite tallying a 7-11 record, the Huskies still got a taste of the playoffs and what needs to do it.
Lost to graduation was a total of 13 seniors.
Those that were lost were Drake Sheaffer, Colby Bodtorf, Marshall Maidens, Rylan Bailey, Gavin Busch, Dylan Zellers, Cole Knable, Connor Cherry, Bryce Dobson, Jace Shoemaker, Owen Mock, Ian Hartzler and Brycen Hassinger.
“We lost 13 players from last year’s squad and they are going to need replaced,” said McGonigle.
Returning from last year’s squad are Landon Black, Jaxson Pupo, Luke Lyter, Tyler Hunter, Brian Esh, Brayden Eversole, Ryan Hine and Brycen Bubb.
There are also some new faces coming up through to compete for a spot on this year’s squad.
“We have a lot of sophomores coming up. A lot of the guys that are coming up through are the ones that played on the Babe Ruth National Runner up team,” said McGonigle. “ They all want to work. They’ve all made an impression in some way. They all want to put their nose to the ground. They are all hungry. They’re gritty. There are players like Xavier Smith, Landon Eichhorn, Tucker Gill they are all playing tough.”
As far as varsity starting out this year you have Ryan Kanagy, Farrell Souders, Dougie Weaver, Aidan Reed.
Mifflin County sports 16 sophomores in the program total this season.
“You are going to see a lot of them right away playing up because we are a young group “ said McGonigle. “But we are a young and hungry group. So I’m excited to see how things go and how things fall for us.
The team has been stuck inside for most of the preseason but it hasn’t stopped the team’s spirit.
“We haven’t been able to get on the field yet. We are doing the best we can. We’re doing our reps and working on fundamentals, going over coverages and also getting quality reps,” said McGonigle. “That’s been the biggest things is working on the quality reps over the quantity. We’ve been trying to focus on the little things.”
The strengths for this year’s team has been the leadership the older players have already shown.
“The senior leadership from guys like Jaxson Pupo, Tyler Hunter, Lyter and Black. Those guys have been there,” said McGonigle. Some of them have been there. We’ve had guys that have stood up and has been leaders from the get-go. That’s been a big driving force. But the young guys want to learn. They are very coachable. They’ve been like sponges taking in everything we’ve said. I’m excited to see how they progress.”
The goals are lofty goals but achievable for this year’s Huskies squad.
“We talked about this the other day with them. The goals don’t change. We want to go and win a district title,” said McGonigle. “We have a team that we believe that will go ahead and do that. We’re going to put our nose to the ground and get after it and make no excuses and go play ball. We want to get that district title and we got a taste of that last year and we want to try again this year, obviously.”
“We want to take that next step too. We want to get past that regional and get into state playoffs. Once you get there you never know what can happen if you’re playing ball the right way.”
Playing in the tough Mid-Penn Commonwealth League, McGonigle doesn’t see just one team as being tougher than another as they all are ones that can be tough night in and night out.
“They’re all tough. They are all competitive,” said McGonigle. “By all means there is no easy competition. They are all tough.”