No high school team or coach likes to hear the word ‘rebuilding’. It has a negative conotation and says ‘losing season’ when anybody hears the word.
But in the case of the Daniel Boone High School baseball team, it’s hard not to say that this year’s team is rebuilding. They lose six senior starters from last year’s team and three good pitchers.
What’s left is a team with one senior and a lot of players in their first or second years of varsity baseball. That means there will be a lot of growing to do this year.
Then throw into the mix the fact that Daniel Boone has been moved to Division 1 this year, playing twice against teams like Wilson, Governor Mifflin, Exeter, Reading and Muhlenberg. They will be tough teams to beat for any team in the league.
But here’s the thing - just because they are young doesn’t mean they can’t win. Anything can happen in high school baseball. It would be a long shot for the Blazers to win the division, but Head Coach Jason McCord and his assistants are doing all they can to speed along the learning curve so their team can compete against the best teams in the league.
“The strength of this team will be its athleticisim,” said Coach McCord. “The team has a great deal of speed and ability that will allow a lot of the players to serve as moving pieces that can play a variety of positions on the field. This ability to move will be key as the team searches for its identity and works to put together the best possible line-ups. Every practice will become an audition for a line-up spot.
There is no doubt that the cornerstone of the team will be four-year starter John Reina (shortstop and pitcher). He’s a solid player for the Blazers and will have to play a major leadership role on the team.
“John has been a key player for our program since he arrived his freshman year,” said Coach McCord. “His work ethic is like none I have ever seen before. He’s driven to succeed and willing to do whatever it takes to be successful.
“He’s a student of the game and has knowledge of players twice his age. I have no doubt that he will take this same drive and determination with him and continue to be a huge success and be an immediate impact player from the moment he sets foot on campus at Division 1 Morehead State in the fall.”
Also coming back is junior Zach Heffner (outfield-pitcher) who saw some playing time last year, including driving in the game-winning run in a come-from-behind victory over Manheim Township.
“Zach is a hard worker who has continued to develop physically,” said Coach McCord. “Zach will be a key player for the team this year in the outfield, on the pitcher’s mound and at the plate.”
So will junior Doug Schilling (first base, pitcher) who emerged during the middle part of the season last year to help the outfield defense. But this year he will be back at first base where he feels more at home. He is a very good defensive first baseman.
“Doug will also continue to work back from elbow surgery to return to the pitchers mound where his presence as a lefty will help to make up some of the innings lost with our heavy graduation last season,” said McCord.
Another junior will be pitcher and outfielder Justin Herring. He led the team in pitching appearances last year with nine as a reliever and one as a starter. He has worked hard in the offseason and hopes to be in the starting rotation this year.
Sophomore Pop Lacey will be back after surprising people with the contributions he made as a freshamn.
“His athleticism allows him to play a variety of positions very well,” said McCord. “Pop will be a player to watch throughout the season as he creates havoc on the basepaths and at the plate.”
Christian Henderson, a junior, whose versatility has had him playing all over the field at various times for the Blazers. This year he will move behind the plate as a catcher.
Ryan Bologa is a senior utility player who missed his junior season due to offseason surgeries. He did well as a DH as a sophomore and is more than ready to get back on the field this year. He has the ability to play all nine positions and he probably will at some point in the season. Coach McCord is hoping he can pick up offensively where he left off as a sophomore.
Other players to watch include Kyle Geimer (Jr. Out.), Noah Coralnick (Jr. Out.), Shiloh Clouse (Jr. Out./P.) and Jed Hoffman (Jr. utility).
“The goals for the team are to grow, mature and learn,” said Coach McCord. “We figure if we work hard to improve every day, and we work to learn to play the game the right way. We have enough talent and athleticism to compete with any team on our schedule.”