Centre County Baseball League: Clarence ready to defend title as season opens

The 2015 Centre County Baseball League opens it’s season on Sunday.

The Clarence Mounties took the trophy home last season as the third seed, sweeping the top-seeded Philipsburg Pirates in three games to win their seventh league title.

The league has six teams this year: Clarence, Philipsburg, Spring Mills, Lemont, Howard and Pleasant Gap. Blanchard left the league after 45 seasons.

A major change on the field also greets the new season to level the playing field with the elimination of metal bats. With the use of wood, a better game of baseball will result.

Clarence brings back most of its squad from last season, including ace Cody Klinger, who threw nine innings in Game 3 of the finals. The quartet of Brian Kochik, Derek Jabco, Justin Taylor and Kalen Gearhart will provide power and average to the lineup. John Schall returns to Clarence after a one year layoff and will swing a heavy bat for the Mounties. Manager Rob Gavlock will have to face some challenges, however, replacing some retired and injured pitchers on his staff who won almost half of the games last season.

Pleasant Gap fought its way into the CCBL semifinals in 2014. The team is led by pitcher/infielder Tyler Lalli, a former Juniata Valley standout. Tyler James gives the Peppers veteran leadership, as does Devin Alterio. Manager Tony Rider is excited to use the wood bats in the league. His squad can play small ball well, as they showed last season.

The Spring Mills Braves have a lot of veterans returning along with a new group of younger players. With the addition of wood bats, pitching and good defense will be the key to success. All home games will be played at the Penns Valley High School varsity field. New manager Fred Johnson likes the energy the younger talent brings to the Braves.

The Howard Hawks will often turn the ball to Brian Pelka, who is the active career leader in pitching wins in the league with 100. The offensive core remains with Tyler Womer, Travis Price, Evan Gettig and Scott Zuback. Dan Cole is also another name to watch with his power from the right side of the plate for longtime Hawks manager Doug Womer.

The Lemont Ducks face another year of transition with only six players returning, giving manager Melissa Hicks a challenge. Pitchers Clint Hicks, Jared Dailey, and Zach Smeal will lead the Ducks on the mound and the infield will be solidified by returnees Tyler Yazujian and Calvin Sichler. Current standouts from a variety of local teams, including Ben Finlan, Alex Garban, Michael Forstmeier and lefty Kyler Mellott will bolster a solid yet strong Lemont Ducks team.

New Philipsburg manager Drew Bryan is excited to start the season. The Pirates return most of the same players who have done nothing but win since they’ve entered the league a few years back. Matt Curtis, Matt McCamley and Bryan are expected to power the Pirates to plenty of wins this season. Parker Watson will be looked on to lead Philipsburg to victories on the mound, as well as longtime veteran Josh Potter and Aaron Lidgett.