DuBOIS — To say graduation hit the DuBois Central Catholic baseball hard would be an understatement.
Head coach Adam Fox lost nine seniors from last year’s 15-3 squad, all of whom started for all or at least part of the season. That group was led by the likes of Justin Miknis, Brandon Walker, Garrett Prosper, Noah Bloom and Dom Torretti.
All hit at or near .400 and had at least 23 hits and 16 RBIs on the season. Miknis, who missed his freshman year of college ball at Kent State due to injury, led the team in average (.500) and home runs (4). Walker led the way in hits (33), runs (25) and doubles (10), while Bloom had the most RBIs (19).
That large senior class certainly depleted the varsity roster, with only a handful of players returning who saw varsity action in 2019.
Chief among those returnees are sophomore Cole Sansom (pitcher/outfielder) and junior Damon Foster (infielder), who has started each of his first two seasons.
That duo will be joined by juniors Dante Armanini and Zach Spellen, who saw some varsity action a year ago and have bided their time behind the large group of seniors who graduated.
Beyond them, Fox has a large and talented freshmen class coming in — 13 of the 18 players on the roster are freshmen or sophomores. The program also will be aided by a trio of transfers — The Hickman Brothers (Chase and Carter) from DuBois and Brandin Anderson from St. Marys.
Carter Hickman is the lone senior on the team, while Anderson (sophomore) and Chase Hickman (freshman) being part of that youth movement. All three are expected to be starters and make an immediate impact.
“If you want me to make a bold statement. We might be even better,” said Fox of his new-look roster. “That was a great group we lost, and we might not win as many games as that group. But, the way this dynamic sets up with pitching, we have a shot to make a run into playoffs.
“We had five or six guys who were throwing really well, and Cole Sansom out there (on mound) is an absolute beast. We had two good weeks of practice and had a scrimmage in. The kids were awesome in the scrimmage against Montgomery. They hit really well and pitched well, and we had a nice start coming into our (new) tourney, which would have been on the 21st.”
Fox was actually in Arizona taking classes for his CIC update for his job as an insurance agent when the PIAA halted sports due to the coronavirus.
“I left on Tuesday and had class Thursday,” he said. “By time I left class, the world changed. It was insane. I was sending messages and practice schedules out to Wookie (Dan Wascovich), Denny (haag) and Brad (Bittner) and all the guys (players). They were telling how great the weather was and that they were outside doing stuff.
“Friday, I had call Wookie and said, ‘Hey, I got really bad news. This going to be last practice for at least two weeks.’ I said everything is shutting down and I’ll be lucky if I get to fly out of here.
“I sent the guys (players) a text and said, ‘Hey, there are bigger things going on in the world right now than high school baseball. So, you use it as a time to work on your mental game and some other stuff baseball-related.’ I just tried to soften the blow the best I could.”
Now, Fox and his team are in a holding pattern waiting to see if any semblance of a season can be played at some point before the school year ends.
From a baseball stand-point, it’s tough for Fox who was excited to work with such a young squad.
“That group we lost were already kind of molded, and I just tried to stear the ship a little bit,” he said said. “That was a great group we had last two years, and we came up little short last year and were disappointed with how we finished.
“This (team) his is a totally different dynamic, and the kind of dynamic I’ve been looking forward too because the kids so young and I can mold them and help them have that mindset to feel like they can have success on baseball field.”
And, that success will be fueled by the pitching staff — led by Sansom, who as a freshman went 4-1 with 33 strikeouts and a 2.31 ERA in 39 1/3 innings pitching against the best teams on the schedule. No other player back pitched for DCC a year ago.
When not pitching, Sansom started in the outfield and hit .351 (13-for-37) with seven RBIs, three doubles and 11 runs scored.
After Sansom, Fox expects Anderson and Chase Hickman to give the Cardinals a strong Top 3 on the mound, with several others primed to eat up innings as well.
“Obviously, Cole had a good freshman year both on the mound and with the bat,” said Fox. “He leads by example, and the kids follow him in a way the kids followed Justin (Miknis) last year.
“He went and played summer ball with U.S. Elite. His family sacrifice a lot to get him to go travel all over country. He was undefeated on mound, 10-0 I think, and one of the coach’s quotes about him was, ‘He just destroys people.’ He has big curve ball, and throw hard and is in the mid to uppers 80s now. He’s a special talent and is already getting recruited by Power 5 conference teams.
“Anderson throws just as hard as Cole, and if he finds the strike zone consistently, we’re going to be really tough to beat. Carter Hickman also looked exceptional on mound as a freshman, and we have a supporting cast that has improve tremendously.
“It’s going to be fun here the next several years with this group.”
For now, Fox just hopes the kids get on the field at some this season.
“There are some many ways and perspectives to look at this (stoppage),” said Fox. “If you just look at it through scope of baseball player and baseball coach, you’re just hoping that we figure something out, and we can get on the field and get some games in and salvage the season.
“You also can look at it as having something you love suddenly taken away. It’s a chance to reflect and appreciate what you have and get a little different perspective on things. It’s a really interesting time and kind of unnerving when you think about it. I heard one of the baseball guys on ESPN make a really good point.
“He said you need to live your life not on fear of acquiring the virus, but live life as you already have it and just try not to spread it to others. It made a lot of sense. Hopefully, people can have some responsible decision-making skills here for a couple weeks and we get through this as a nation.”
Senior: Chase Hickman. Juniors: Dante Armanini, Damon Foster, Zach Spellen, Loren Way. Sophomores: Jack Adair, Brandin Anderson, Jalen Kosko, Taven Lukehart, Cole Sansom. Freshmen: Kaden Brezenski, Nick Colbey, Ben Gritzer, Neel Gupta, Dylan Hanna, Carter Hickman, Cartar Kosko, Matt Pyne.