DuBOIS — Penn State DuBois will have a much different look when it returns to the diamond this weekend to begin the defense of back-to-back USCAA Small College World Series titles.
The Lions will be without 15 players from last year’s title-winning squad, as 10 are gone to graduation, while five more transferred to Penn State Main Campus.
The seniors gone from last season include Colton Treaster, Garrett Brown, Shane Haberberger, Clayton Butler, Jesse Martin, Thomas Plummer, Brandon Gettig, Austin Amacher, John White and Bryce Hanley.
Lance Pennington, Lucas Burkett, Kyle Gill, Jackson Frank and Jonathan Thomas are also all gone to transfer from the 2019 squad that not only won a second straight USCAA title, but also defended its PSUAC crown.
DuBois will look for new players to step up at the plate, as it lost three of its top six leaders in hits from last season in Gettig (1st), Brown (4th) and Butler (6th).
Despite all of that, the Lions will still have plenty of talent up and down their roster, both in the form of experienced returnees as well as first-year players.
That talent will be put to the test beginning Saturday, as DuBois opens its season at the Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach, S.C., as it will play eight games over the span of four days.
Penn State DuBois head coach Tom Calliari noted that while 15 players are gone from last season’s team, he also returns 15 players, many of whom have played key roles in the back-to-back national titles.
“There is a good veteran core coming back, so a lot of those guys were on the field for the last two championships,” Calliari said. “It’s not like we’re starting over, those guys are going to allow us to be able to sustain our culture, success and expectations.”
The Lions head coach added that his team will have a bit of a different look, noting that some of the players lost are irreplaceable, but feels new talent will step in to fill their roles.
While many of those 15 returnees were not starters last season, Calliari’s reputation of getting his bench involved in every game will pay off this season as those non-starters still have plenty of on-field experience in big games.
The head coach noted that before each season, a leadership council is created, as some of the more experienced players are included as a way to mentor the younger and less experienced players.
Calliari feels many of those players, including Toner Corl (the returning USCAA World Series MVP), Joey DiPietro, Vince McDowell, Logan Johnson, Frank Stefko, Justin Orlowski and Brandon Orsich, will play key roles both on and off the field this season.
Corl will look to be a leader for the Lions at the plate, as last season as a sophomore he led the team in at-bats (114) and was second in hits (42) and third in RBIs (33).
On the mound, Orsich will lead what Calliari expects to be a strong group of starters, as the now senior led the Lions in innings pitched with 57.0 as well as wins, posting a 10-0 record on the hill last year.
Calliari noted he expects his team to have a strong starting rotation on the mound and feels his team will be strong in the late innings, but is looking for pitchers to step up in the middle relief area.
The head coach is looking towards several other players to step up in different aspects of the game.
“A couple guys I feel are going to have strong years are the Morgan twins, Thayne and Zane, I think they’re very athletic and great character kids and will do anything they’re asked to do,” Calliari said.
“As for some new guys, Brandon Sicheri from St. Marys, I feel like will be an impact guy, Jacob Allen from West Shamokin, Cory Lehman from Tyrone is a big, strong, 6-foot-5 kid that has a lot of untapped ability and Cole Breon from Penns Valley, those are all kids that I feel can all have an impact right away.”
Along with the strong freshman group, junior Daniel Stauffer, a DI transfer from St. Bonaventure out of Elk County Catholic will be a key in multiple facets of the game for the Lions this season.
“He can close, catch, play the infield, play the outfield, he can do everything,” Calliari said. “We’re blessed to get a kid with that kind of talent.”
After a tough field in Myrtle Beach, the Lions schedule does not get any easier throughout the season, as they face a handful of teams that have made the Small College World Series in recent years including Penn State Mont Alto, Bryant & Stratton (Albany), which they defeated for last year’s title, and Wright State-Lake.
The team’s head coach said that with his team’s success as of late, more and more DII programs have reached out to them looking to schedule games and some of those could be added to the schedule.
He also noted that he feels as Penn State DuBois improves, the entire PSUAC will continue to improve as teams look to step up their game to challenge the back-to-back conference champs.
Calliari said that with the new-look team, combined with some injuries and the tough completion in Myrtle Beach, the team could struggle in the early going.
“We may start slow, but we’ll figure it out,” Calliari said. “We use Myrtle Beach as an opportunity to really change up the lineups every game and give everybody and opportunity.”
DuBois gets its season underway at The Ripken Experience with a doubleheader Saturday against College of DuPage, with the first game beginning at 4 p.m.