Young stars give Raiders hope
Back in preseason practices, Middletown Coach Mike Carnes was aware that he had a youthful team with limited experience to work with as the 2013 scholastic baseball season unfolded. Even with just five seniors, none of whom were regular starters the …
Young stars give Raiders hope
“Our numbers are down with just 28 players between the varsity and junior varsity teams,” he said that first week of March. “But we have 28 players who want to be here, who want to play baseball.”
That attitude was a quality he saw in his players – and it showed during the course of a 9-10 season.
And a couple outstanding arms on the pitching staff certainly played a huge part as well as the young Blue Raiders won nine games this spring.
With just two of the seniors in the starting lineup through most of the season, Carnes relied on a good mix of underclassmen to lead the way during the campaign. And that bodes well for the future.
“I believe we did well at what we set out to be good at. We concentrated on pitching and defense and we accomplished that goal,” Carnes said, summing up the season.
The two seniors who were starters through most of the season – third baseman Dylan Bower and outfielder Eddie Finsterbush – were solid at their positions throughout the year. Three juniors, first baseman/pitcher Nick Drawbaugh, catcher/outfielder Cody Fox and second baseman Ryan Popp, were in the starting lineup all season long.
That left the rest of the first team roster to be filled by sophomores. Nathan Ocker and Zack Sims turned out to be two of the best pitchers in the Mid-Penn Conference, while center fielder Brett Altland and right fielder Jordan Flowers had really good seasons as well. Flowers also enjoyed success on the mound.
Zach Buell, Tyler Dintiman and Jerry Kohout were the other seniors who, although they saw limited action, provided solid depth to the team in 2013.
The pitching was terrific as the team’s staff ended the year with an amazing 2.21 ERA. The defense was solid, ending with a fielding percentage of .935. The only real flaw with this team was its low batting average, which really proved to be the difference between the team’s 9-10 record and a wining percentage that could have earned the Raiders a spot in the District 3 playoffs. With a collective batting average of .236, the team lost a number of one- or two-run games, especially in the season’s second half.
“We did not hit as well as I would have thought, but our emphasis was pitching and defense and that kept us in 18 of 19 games to the point where we had winning or tying runs on base or at the plate in the last inning in 8 of our 10 losses,” Carnes noted.
Yet there was some decent hitting coming from some of the players. Altland led the team with a .364 batting average, followed by Bower at .326, Flowers at .296, Sims at .269 and Drawbaugh at .250. Flowers had 16 hits, Bower had 15, Sims had 14, Fox and Drawbaugh each had 13 and Ocker had 12. Ocker led the team with 10 runs batted in.
There were no home runs hit by the team, but Bower, Flowers and Drawbaugh each punched out a triple. Ocker recorded 4 of the team’s 11 doubles and the squad produced 82 runs in the 19-game slate. Fox and Ocker scored a combined 21 runs to lead the team.
On the pitching side, Ocker led the staff with 77 strikeouts, including a record-setting 24 in one game, and a 2.30 earned run average. Sims nearly matched those numbers with 73 strikeouts and a 2.70 ERA. The pair pitched a combined 92-2/3 innings.
In 14 innings on the mound, Flowers recorded a .093 ERA and 26 strikeouts while Drawbaugh posted a 2.55 earned run average with 17 strikeouts in 22 innings.
Other players who saw time on the varsity squad were sophomores Kyle Finsterbush, Ethan Kell and Eddie Arnold, junior Josh Matinchek and freshman Brandon Harper.
Because of late-season weather problems, the Raiders never got to play their final game of the season against Steelton-Highspire. A victory in the finale might have given the Middletown squad a shot at qualifying for postseason play in District 3’s Class AAA.
“I would say after the games that this is the way this team plays – keep it close and give ourselves a chance to win. I really wanted these kids to make it to the playoffs,’’ Carnes said. “They really worked hard and deserved a chance.”
Bower, Ocker and Sims were named as Mid-Penn Conference all-stars and Flowers made the honorable mention list.
Larry Etter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.