Young Roster to Impact JC Baseball in 2017

Young Roster to Impact JC Baseball in 2017

HUNTINGDON, Pa. - Second-year head coach Adam Sheibley and the Juniata baseball team will begin the 2017 season with a doubleheader at Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia on Saturday, Feb. 18.

Welcoming a young team, with no seniors on the roster, Sheibley believes it provides enthusiasm for this year and the years to come. "We focused a lot on teaching and breaking the game down in the fall and during our practices this spring," he said. "Having a young team instills a sense of excitement in the program about our future and seeing how everyone is developing and improving."

The returning players hold some of the responsibility of getting the first-year athletes up to speed, a job they have excelled at so far. "Our upperclassmen have completely bought into what we are trying accomplish. [They] have done a great job setting the tone for all the new guys," said Sheibley.

Isaac Kline (Everett, Pa./Bedford) is pegged as one of the Eagles' top returners. "He had a successful freshman season and has the stuff to be one of the best pitchers in the league." The sophomore started nine games in the 2016 season, including one complete game, and finished his freshman campaign with a 4.80 ERA. His 54.1 innings pitched and 37 strikeouts led the team. When the righty isn't on the hill, Kline will play second base as he did last season.

On the mound, the Eagles are also relying on returners Jesse Beeler (Greencastle, Pa./Greencastle-Antrim) and Caleb Pepperday (Phillipsburg, Pa./Phillipsburg-Osceola). Beeler threw 53.2 innings last season as a sophomore, including a team-high three complete games. Pepperday followed with 40.2 innings on the mound, making seven starts out of his 13 appearances. "They know what to expect and can help prepare our young staff," said Sheibley. 

With 14 freshmen on the roster, Sheibley expects the freshmen arms to log a lot of innings on the mound. "How they perform early in the year will help our coaching staff determine what role they may be in," he said. Drew Harshbarger (Mount Union, Pa./Mount Union), Josiah Lynn (Beggs, OK/Classical Conversations Homeschool) and Austin Suders (Marion, Pa./Chambersburg Area) will see starting opportunities early in the season, especially in Florida. Gavin Grimaldi (Clymer, Pa./Penns Manor), Jerry Hobbs (Scranton, Pa./Old Forge), Adam Kipp (Mt. Wolf, Pa./Northeastern) and Alek Vujanic (Bel Air, Md./Patterson Mill) will likely start in the bullpen, but may find their way to starting roles throughout the season.

Offensively, Chris Schreder (Lititz, Pa./Lancaster Catholic) will be a key contributor from the top of the lineup. JC will rely on him to score runs and drive them in. So far in his young career, the junior has recorded 72 hits, 35 RBI and a .293 batting average. When not on the mound, Kline will continue to be a threat at the plate. "I am also excited about the work and progress our two catchers, Josh Keszczyk (Boyertown, Pa./Boyertown Area) and Hunter Price (Huntingdon, Pa./Huntingdon Area), have made in the offseason," said Sheibley.
The Eagles will rely on their young bats to have an immediate impact as well. Devin McLaughlin (Monmouth Beach, N.J./Shore Regional), Kevin Starner (Manheim, Pa./Manheim Central) and Matt Innella (Commack, N.Y./Commack) earned early-season starting spots. McLaughlin will be in right field for Juniata and can help out on the mound as well. Starner and Innella will be competing for time at third, but Starner is getting the nod for the start at the beginning. Innella will also see time at second when Kline is pitching.
As Juniata finished the 2016 season 9-30 and lost seven athletes to graduation, the offseason work for the coaches was to "…achieve depth on all areas on the field, as well as many high-quality student-athletes." Sheibley hopes the young student-athletes can come in and impact the program, starting with the games down in Virginia.

After the doubleheader at Eastern Mennonite University, Juniata will face Baldwin Wallace, Pitt. –Bradford and Bridgewater the following weekend in Virginia. They will then compete in the Russ Matt Invitational down in Florida from March 5-March 10, playing eight games.