West Shamokin baseball team boasts 6 returning starters
West Shamokin coach Dave Powers supports a statistical-analysis approach to baseball, but he has struggled to ignore some simpler math this spring.
He's bothered by the fact that he can count the total number of Wolves on his hands and toes.
"I'm disappointed with the numbers," said Powers, whose roster includes 19 players. "But as I always tell the guys, 'It's not about who's not here but who is.' "
Fortunately for West Shamokin, its lineup includes six returning starters. Powers trusts that his collection of upperclassmen will contend for a playoff spot -- just as the Wolves did a season ago, when they finished fourth in Section 3-AA with a 5-7 record and 5-10-1 overall mark.
The core of the team is comprised of players who excelled in other sports this school year. Senior first baseman Jason McCaslin, senior center fielder Derek Fleming, junior shortstop Anthony Rocco and senior third baseman Evan Keener -- all returning starters -- belonged to the golf team that won a section title in the fall. McCaslin, Fleming, Rocco and senior Travis Reesman played for the basketball team, which tied for second in its section to qualify for the playoffs.
"They're very confident when it comes to winning and losing, and that's a big part of it," Powers said. "You've got to have that confidence that you can go out on the field and do it, and I like what I've seen so far."
Seniors Matt Van Horn and Mike Mikita also return as starters. Van Horn is the second baseman this season, and Mikita will alternate between the outfield and the mound.
Mikita, Fleming and Rocco will eat up most of the innings.
"We've worked on painting the black at the plate," Mikita said. "We don't want to put it right down the middle for them to slug it."
The graduation of Andrew Steighner left a void at catcher. Another Andrew -- junior Andrew Sabula -- stepped in to fill the position, which he last played in youth leagues.
"Just learning how to handle pitchers is a big thing, and blocking balls in the dirt," Powers said. "Our backstop at home is 15, 20 feet behind home plate, and we can't have a lot of passed balls. So he's been getting gradually better. ... Early in the season, we're going to call pitches for him, but as time goes by, I think he'll be able to handle it himself."
West Shamokin averaged 11.4 runs during victories last season but managed just 3.7 during losses. Players and Powers alike agreed about the need for consistency.
"We need more runs this year," Keener said. "We need to be more aggressive. I think we had too many chances that we let go last year. If we're aggressive, we score more runs and win more games."