BROOKVILLE — A season on hold hasn’t been fun at all for the Brookville Raiders baseball team.
A run to the state final four two years ago and a District 9 Class 3A title before a sub-regional finals loss to Bedford last year had the Raiders coming back for more this year. An 11-9 finish with the loss of four regulars to graduation still leaves second-year head coach Nathan Bonfardine with plenty of talent.
He dearly hopes he can use it before time ticks away on any chance of playing a season.
“Frustrating is definitely the word and disheartening is another word I’d go with just because you gear all the guys up and are ready to go and we have great weather that’s teasing us,” Bonfardine said Monday. “I felt like we had a really good shot this year to go pretty deep into the playoffs and I was very pleased with what was returning as well as the incoming freshmen and sophomores who could fill a role on the varsity team this year.
“It’s just one of those things you don’t have any control over, but it’s very frustrating to see a possible season disappear in front of your eyes. I think we had a very good shot this year and I’m hopeful that it can still happen but, day by day, it doesn’t look too promising.”
All three of the Raiders’ Northern Allegheny League’s Large School All-Stars are back with seniors Seth Dunkle and Aaron Park, and junior Jace Miner.
Dunkle and Park would be entering their fourth year as starters while Park and Miner are headed to Division I schools. Park starts this fall at New Jersey Institute of Technology while Miner just verbally committed to the University of Hartford this week (see accompanying story).
Park’s been the ace of the staff since a freshman and he’s 16-10 with a 1.62 in 147 career innings. He was 5-3 with a 2.04 earned run average with 56 strikeouts in 48 innings last year. Park also hit .338 with seven doubles and a team-high 29 runs batted in.
“I was looking for a phenomenal season out of him this year and next year for him, it’s a whole different ballgame. so you just seeing him step up his game on the mound as well as any other position that we have him fill in to play,” Bonfardine said. It felt like he was really tearing the cover off the ball and in the preseason, after a few warm-up swings, you could really tell that he was getting eager to get back in the box hit the baseball.”
Dunkle has anchored the team’s defense at shortstop the past three seasons. He hit .300 last year with effective pitching out of the bullpen, going 2-1 with a 1.80 ERA in 11 2/3 innings.
“I can’t think of another kid who probably works harder than Seth Dunkle,” Bonfardine said. “Watching videos off the field and just trying to better himself in the game of baseball, it would have been pretty interesting to see and play his final season.”
Miner led the Raiders in hitting (.415), runs scored (22), doubles (9), triples (3) and stolen bases (12), playing center field and batting at the top of the order with Dunkle and Park. While he never got untracked completely on the mound last spring, going 0-2 with a 3.91 ERA in 14 1/3 innings, his offseason work got him college interest and an offer to play at Hartford. His value on the mound and in the field is very high for Bonfardine.
“He put in some extra time over the summer and played some travel ball and threw a couple games for the Grays and you could tell coming back into the season that he definitely increased his velocity,” Bonfardine said. “He had a better presence on the mound and I was looking forward to having him throw some innings this year. And looking back to the stats, he was just a reliable batter in your lineup, hitting .415, just an all-around phenomenal ballplayer and athlete. It just would have been real interesting to see him develop this year coming back as a junior.”
Cole LaBenne is the other returning regular as a senior, coming off a strong .386 performance at the plate. He’ll likely start in one of the two corner outfield spots.
Junior Chase Palmer (.222) is a returning starter who will play a varied role where needed defensively from second base to shortstop or third base and even the outfield. He also threw the second-most innings behind Park, going 2-1 with a 1.06 ERA in 26 1/3 innings.
Sophomores Hunter Roney and Hunter Geer saw significant playing time, Roney starting at third and hitting .225 while seeing limited action on the mound. Geer (.286) was a backup outfielder and will vie for a starting spot there this year.
From there, Bonfardine will plug players into spots where needed. Senior Kaleb Kalgren, Roney, Geer, junior Wyatt Griffin and sophomores Geer, Griffin Ruhlman and Jamison Rhoades are part of what could be a deep pitching staff.
Rhoades backed up graduated starting catcher Dane Lyle last year and returns along with first-year junior Robert Keth. Sophomore Bryce Rafferty could see time at first base while Griffin, junior Hayden Osborne and sophomore Owen Caylor are options at second base.
Junior Warren Corbett, and sophomores Danny Lauer and Bay Harper are also part of the outfield candidates as well.
It’s a 27-man roster for Bonfardine’s staff that includes Chad Weaver, Rob LaBenne, Ben Reitz, Joe Kalgren. With the obvious big number, a full junior varsity schedule was also set to go once again this spring.
SENIORS: Aaron Park, Cole LaBenne, Seth Dunkle, Kaleb Kalgren.
JUNIORS: Warren Corbett, Robert Keth, Wyatt Griffin, Jace Miner, Hayden Osborne, Chase Palmer
SOPHOMORES: Owen Caylor, Hunter Geer, Bay Harper, Danny Lauer, Bryce Rafferty, Jamison Rhoades, Hunter Roney, Griffin Ruhlman, Steven Swineford, Patrick Diedrich, Alan Hartstein.
FRESHMEN: John Colgan, Riley Smith, Dylan Tollini, Bryce Weaver, Carson Weaver, Hunter Greeley.