NTL BASEBALL: NEB YOUTHFUL BUT ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT SEASON
(2021-03-29)BY CHRIS MANNINGNorthern Tier Sports Report
When the Northeast Bradford baseball team suits up for their first game against NP-Mansfield it will be for the first time for 14 of the 18 players on the roster.
“The young kids have a lot of talent, and I think there’s a lot of potential there,” said coach Brian Pifer. “It’s going to be interesting to see because everybody else took a year off.”
In a lot of years numbers can be an issue for the Panthers, but 18 is solid for them. And with another 12 or so on the junior high team, the future looks bright.
But right now the biggest issue facing Pifer is rounding these youngsters into a competitive team, and the first place he wants to start is at the plate. After missing a year getting their timing back in the batter’s box may be the most difficult aspect of the game they’re facing at the moment.
“I think that’s probably going to be the biggest challenge,” explained Pifer. “Just getting the bat on the ball consistently, just because they took a year off. From arm strength, that might be a good thing in some cases, but I think just making contact consistently is going to be the biggest challenge.”
Luckily they have some solid returnees to help groom the youngsters.
“The seniors that we have, I expect them to have some good years,” said Pifer. “We’ll just have to wait and see on these young guys.”
Lucas Crown, Nick Beers and Collin Allis are their three seniors, and two years ago they all contributed on the field.
Beers hit .333 with a home run, five doubles, 8-RBI and 11 runs scored, Crown hit .322 with 12-RBI and eight runs scored and Allis hit .283 with three doubles, 9-RBI and nine runs scored. Throw in junior Garrett Cooper, who as a freshman hit .271 with 8-RBI, and they have a solid bunch of hitters to build around.
It’s on the mound that is Pifer’s biggest worry, especially when it comes to replacing Ian Wilbur, who is now on the Mansfield University pitching staff.
“He ate a lot of innings for us,” said Pifer. “Between Lucas Crown, and Collin Allis, and Nick Beers, they’re going to have to step in and fill some innings. Some of these ninth graders, there’s some arms there. They’re going to obviously have to get their feet wet.”
Wilbur led the team with 37 innings pitched in 2019, though Allis (25 1/3-innings) and Crown (22 2/3-innings) were second and third.
Allis was 2-1 with a 2.76 ERA as he had 18 strikeouts to nine walks. Crown had a 6.49 ERA with a 2-5 record, though he did come in to get three saves. Crown struck out 26 to 11 walks.
Two years ago they went 6-12, losing five of their first seven games, but battled back to be 6-8 at one point, before finishing 0-4. They did have five games decided by two runs or less - including a 1-0 loss to NTL Division-I champions Athens - so that shows just how close they’ve come, recently, to taking that next step.
But if that next step is this year, it’s going to have be the freshmen who take it.
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