By Pete Chiodo
March 30, 2013 7:00 a.m. —
One team has a new coaching staff and a bunch of new starters. And the other team is an entirely new program playing in a wholly foreign classification.
The 2013 baseball season will certainly be a voyage into the unknown for the Conneaut and Meadville high school teams as both search for a path to victory in District 10’s new-look Region 6.
“Yeah, and the first question is,” remarked Conneaut head coach Todd Greenawalt, “when is this snow going to stop?”
Bulldogs are building
Baseball season is already a week old, and few teams have had a chance to step outside at all, let alone get in any of their scheduled games.
At least Meadville got to play a couple during a trip down to South Carolina last weekend.
Getting some time on the diamond is crucial for the Bulldogs as first-year head coach Bruce Stewart guides a team that graduated five seniors (including all-region picks Terence Goodrum, Alex Glatch and Corey Lynn); had one former starter (all-region pitcher/utility Matt Thompson) move to Saegertown; another (Harry Boyer) move to Jamestown; and another starter (center fielder Colton McCurdy) not come out for the team this year.
“We lost quite a few people,” said Stewart, a 1992 Meadville graduate and former junior varsity, American Legion and Little League coach. “We’ll be doing some learning on the fly. I think we’ll get a lot better as we go. And by the end of the year we should be a tough out for people once everyone gets a grasp on what we’re teaching and the program in general.”
The trip down south was not quite a success as far as wins and losses go — the Bulldogs fell to Taylor Allderdice 16-6 and then lost to South Park 16-1. But the trip did serve to give Stewart and the new coaching staff, which includes Dana Scheppleman and Jason Bustamante, a look at where the team’s talent resides.
“When you look at the scores, it wasn’t too good,” Stewart said. “But I think it was productive. We learned a lot. I had only seen a couple kids play before this. And I was worried more about putting them in certain positions and seeing who could handle what than I was about winning or losing.
“I got a good idea of what we’re dealing with. I thought the kids played well.”
Conneaut is collected
Conneaut is in a similar situation as Meadville. Technically, each of Conneaut’s starters will be new to the team, considering it is the first year of the program following the consolidation of the former Conneaut Lake, Conneaut Valley and Linesville high schools.
Greenawalt is somewhat familiar with all of his players, although many of them he knows from standing in the dugout on the other side of the field. Linesville, Conneaut Lake and Conneaut Valley were Class A rivals just last year.
“It’s gone well so far,” said Greenawalt. “A lot of aspects of it, obviously, are different. But the kids have been together almost the whole school year. Some have played together in different sports. I don’t think it’s an issue anymore. And I don’t think it ever was, really.”
With the combination of the three programs, Greenawalt has more players (27) than he was used at Linesville. But he was able to add to his coaching staff, which now includes his former Linesville assistant Steve Mickle, former Conneaut Lake assistant Jeremy Allen, and volunteer assistant Brennen Miller.
The larger number of players also opens the door for more opportunities to play.
“We’re moving up to Triple-A, so we’ve tried different things to start a junior high team and we’re going to be putting more emphasis on the JV team.
“I think it should go well,” he added. “It’s an adjustment. It’s about building a program, getting guys to play our style of baseball and just keep building on that.”
Region 6 awaits
So, Conneaut is an entirely new team. And Meadville, though it will be wearing the same colors, will be a sort of a new team as well.
But that’s not all these two teams have in common. They also share a conference now — Region 6.
The reshaped league is similar to last year’s Region 7, only Commodore Perry and Franklin both dropped to Class AA. Perry now plays in Region 2 and Franklin is in Region 4.
Grove City, Oil City and Slippery Rock will be familiar league foes for Meadville fans. Conneaut will be a perfectly new entity.
“Grove City is going to be very good,” said Stewart. “Slippery Rock always has a good team. ... And CASH, I’m not sure what they’re going to be like with them being combined.”
From Conneaut’s perspective, almost every opponent this season will be a new one.
“Never been to their fields, never played them, don’t know the coaches,” said Greenawalt. “A lot of unknowns.”
And not only will the region games be against unfamiliar foes, but the Eagles also have a slew of seldom-seen opponents on its non-league slate, like McDowell, Girard, General McLane, Cathedral Prep.
“It’s going to be exciting to compete with the Meadvilles and the Grove Citys and the Cathedral Preps and these teams that have had a lot of success over the years,” said Greenawalt. “It’s going to be nice to be playing on the same level as them. We’ll have to earn it and we’ll be working on that.
“That’s what keeps you going — the unknown.”