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MAHS baseball team will try to replace key players

By Larry Etter

Press & Journal Staff

717-944-4628
Posted 3/20/19

The Middletown baseball program went through a transition period last spring when Mike Lupia took over the reins following the resignation of Steve Shuleski.

Lupia, a Middletown and Indiana …

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MAHS baseball team will try to replace key players

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The Middletown baseball program went through a transition period last spring when Mike Lupia took over the reins following the resignation of Steve Shuleski.

Lupia, a Middletown and Indiana University of Pennsylvania graduate, knows baseball and enters his second season at the helm with plans to build on what he had started last year.

The Blue Raiders finished with a respectable 10-9 record in 2018, but Lupia has some holes to fill following the graduation of several key players from that team. He will rely on a few returning starters, along with several new faces, in fielding a competitive unit in 2019.

Lupia also has a staff made up of other Middletown alums to help him achieve his goals. The assistants include Aaron Lupia, Matt Brinser, Steve Pickel and Brandon Popp, who coached with him last spring. Bob Gomboc, another former Raider, is back to lead the junior varsity team. Dan Albright is the assistant JV coach.

The returning starters are seniors Scott Ash, Cam Peters and Avery Williams. Also in the mix is Garrett Miller, who saw extensive playing time a year ago. Ash is a starting pitcher and infielder, Peters played at first and third base, Williams was a catcher and is now working out at third base, and Miller is an infielder and pitcher.

Other seniors on the roster are Jaxson Senior and Cole Senior, both infielders, and P. J. Sidhu, an outfielder.

Others working with the varsity team are Justin Yohn, catcher; Ray Truntz, first baseman; Brady Keyser, infielder/outfielder; Tim Wagner, outfielder; Collin Heffner, infielder; sophomore Michael Tuffy, outfielder/pitcher; freshman Tony Powell, outfielder/pitcher; and A. J. Stains, infielder. 

Following the opening week of spring practices, the athletes got a break when the weather cleared to start week two. Limited to inside work in the beginning, the team was able to see some field time prior to its scrimmage at Hershey last Thursday.

“The turnout (for off season workouts) was pretty good once basketball ended,” Lupia said. “Having the hitting room (in the fitness center) is great. No one has anything like it in the area.”

Against the Trojans, a team that perennially competes for division and, often, district titles, the Blue Raiders fared pretty well. Although, they lost the scrimmage 4-3, the Raiders made a nice comeback after falling behind 4-0 through five innings. Their fortunes changed in the top of the sixth when they scored 3 runs.

Ash started on the mound for the Middletown squad and trailed 1-0 before Hershey plated three more runs in the bottom of the third. The initial run came on a fielder’s choice grounder in the second. The second run was unearned. The other two came off an RBI single that just stayed fair by inches down the first base line. Ash finished with 4 strikeouts.

The Raiders collected two hits and drew a pair of walks in the first four innings, but came up empty.

Tuffy took the mound in the home half of the fourth inning and threw shutout ball in the fourth and fifth with a pair of strikeouts, two walks issued and no hits against the Trojans. His last out was a bit scary as he took a hard liner off his glove before recovering to make the play at first.

In the top of the sixth, the Middletown bats came alive. Tuffy singled with one out and went to third on Ash’s single and a throwing error by Hershey. Cole Senior, playing his first baseball in several years, made contact on a 1-0 pitch to the infield, but Tuffy avoided the force out by beating the throw home for the first run. Williams singled in Ash for the second run and Wagner’s sacrifice fly to deep left drove in Senior for the third run.

Powell pitched the bottom of the sixth and issued a two-out walk before getting out of the inning with a ground ball back to the mound. The Raiders batted in the top of the seventh, getting a leadoff single by Miller, who advanced to second on Jaxson Senior’s sac bunt. But he was left stranded as the Trojans secured the 4-3 win.

Both coaches elected to play on for an extended workout. Lupia was pleased with the scrimmage, although he did comment about several dropped balls for errors by his defense. The six hits were a plus, however.

The Raiders were scheduled for a second scrimmage this week against visiting Elizabethtown prior to the season’s opening games Friday at Boiling Springs and Saturday against Central Dauphin East.

The Raiders will again compete in the Mid-Penn Conference’s Capital Division against Northern York, East Pennsboro, West Perry, Camp Hill, Trinity, Steelton-Highspire and Milton Hershey.

East Pennsboro is predicted to be the division team to beat in 2019. Northern finished as the division champion last year, followed by East Pennsboro, West Perry and Camp Hill in the top four spots.

While the rosters are pretty much decided, Powell, Stains and Tuffy could see time at both levels. The junior varsity roster consists of Ean Benner, Jaden Benner, Jason Grob, Gavin Hickoff, Matt Mitchell, Cody Mutik, Caden Paul, Isaiah Rogers-Keeney, Caden Sweeney, Ryan Souders, Ben Staker, Jonah Troup, Matt Wagner and Troy Walko.