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Injuries will test Penn State Fayette pitching, versatility

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Ray Smitley is in his 10th season as head coach of the Penn State Fayette baseball team. He will be assisted by Gary Smitley and Frank Kula.

Sunday, April 6, 2014, 9:54 p.m.

It's been a tough start to the 2014 season for the Penn State Fayette baseball team.

The Roaring Lions, like many other teams, have dealt with poor weather conditions.

However, getting games rescheduled has been a problem, and has limited the opportunities for Penn State Fayette to be on the field in a competitive setting.

On top of that, the Roaring Lions already have had to deal with several injuries.

Sophomores Jonathan Krall and Shawn Cotton were expected to bolster the starting rotation, but neither will be able to pitch because of injury.

Also, senior Connor McKeel had Tommy John surgery, leaving the Roaring Lions searching for arms. Seniors Alex Fogle, Braden Royer and Chris Jeffreys, as well as junior Kody Decker and sophomore Dylan Jackson will be counted on to eat up innings.

“I have some confidence in them,” said Penn State Fayette coach Ray Smitley. “These guys can pitch, but we have a limited amount of pitchers, so guys will have to go as long as they can go. They'll have to throw strikes and minimize walks.”

Because of a relatively small roster, much of the Roaring Lions' success will depend on position flexibility.

Junior Colton Henry is the starting catcher, but will have to be spelled from time to time because Penn State Fayette plays doubleheaders with its PSUAC opponents. Senior Braden Royer and Decker will serve as backups.

Freshman Seth Krall will get much of the workload at third base with Decker spelling him. Royer is the primary shortstop, but he will be relieved by Seth Krall and Fogle on occasion.

Freshman Joe Beucher is the top candidate at second base, while Decker may be used there in some instances. Royer will play first base along with Jonathan Krall and Jackson.

The outfield will feature a combination of Henry, Jeffreys, Royer and freshman Cyle Swink.

With only a limited amount of games played, it's difficult for Smitley to get a strong read on how the season will pan out. However, he is encouraged by the team's defense in the early going.

“We are making the plays defensively,” Smitley said. “We've got some young men that can hit pretty well and I feel the hitting will definitely come around.”

Smitley pointed out that players such as Seth Krall, Decker, Fogle and Royer will be counted on for steady offense. However, he said everyone on the roster will have to contribute to make the season successful.

“The kids are working awfully hard,” Smitley said. “With the numbers we have, our backs are against the wall. We want to play solid ball and hope we hold up.

“Once we get into a groove, I feel confident. We just have to win the games we should win and go from there.”

Penn State Fayette plays its games at Hutchinson Field in Hopwood. The Roaring Lions will open their home schedule with a PSUAC doubleheader against Penn State Hazleton on Saturday.

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