Bellwood-Antis baseball team regroups after 2003 state title

One of the toughest questions first-year head coach Steve Conlon heard last spring after his Bellwood-Antis baseball team won the state championship was, “what can you do for an encore,”
The 2003 Blue Devils made believers of fans, coaches and themselves riding the arms of Adam Plummer, Nate Carlson and Zach Stere combined with a batting order that supplied lots of punch and a defense that almost never committed a mistake in crunch time. The 2003 baseball team went 22-4, including the final 12 wins in a row to give Bellwood-Antis their first team state championship.
As the old adage goes, however, “what have you done for me lately?”
The 2004 edition certainly has a lot to live up to. Now in a new league, the Mountain Athletic Conference (MAC) composed of 22 teams in a four division mega-league, with the long-time Blair County League gone, the Blue Devils are aligned in Division 3 of the MAC, along with Tyrone, Penns Valley, Bishop Guilfoyle, West Branch and Penns Valley. The Blue Devil bid the Blair County League goodbye after winning three of the last four titles.
Gone are all of the starting pitching staff. The only remaining pitcher, who saw any time at all is junior Chris Alley and that segment of time contains just 11 and 1/3 innings. Also graduated are center fielder Ricky Shannon, right fielder Ryan Myers and left fielder Derrick Miller. Plummer played first base, Carlson first, shortstop and outfield and Stere just about everywhere when they weren’t on the mound. Plummer and Stere batted over .400, Carlson .370, Shannon .330, Miller .301 and Myers .273.
“It’s a different challenge this year,” explained Conlon. “That’s the way I like to look at it. We are a young team and just to have this group of kids be competitive makes this a different challenge. We have to be a different baseball team. We don’t quite have the dominating pitching, so we have to rely on solid defense and do some different things like bunting up runners to play for one run at a time. It will be a different way of coaching than last year when we had all those seniors.”
The Blue Devils return four starters, catcher Shawn Weiand (.412 with 20 RBIs), second baseman Andy Brisbin (.311), shortstop/pitcher Chris Alley (.382) and third baseman Nick Treese (.280).
“We will be replacing all of our starting pitching,” said a concerned Conlon. “We will be very young and inexperienced beyond our four returning starters and Chris Alley pitched very little and is at a new position in the infield at shortstop after being at third base last year.”
B-A will start the season with Andy Brisbin leading off and playing second base, Tyler McClellan batting second and playing first base, hitting third in the order and catching will be Shawn Weiand. Matt Albright will DH for either Adam DeArmitt playing center field or Ryan Rhoades when he pitches or plays shortstop, and hit cleanup. Troy Brunner will be the left fielder and bat fifth, Chris Alley will bat sixth and pitch or play short. Nick Treese will bat seventh and play third base, L. J. Seidel will play right field and bat eighth and ninth will be either DeArmitt or Rhoades, depending on which one is not being DH’ed for.
“Our strengths should be at catcher, where Shawn Weiand just might be the best catcher on the western side of the state,” stated Conlon, “and our infield where we return a lot of guys from last year. With Chris Alley moving over to shortstop and Nick Treese coming back to third base, we have two guys who both played time in the infield and then Andy Brisbin returning at second base. Right now it appears hitting-wise, we are not too bad. We are making contact all the way throughout the lineup.”
Other Blue Devils back from the championship squad include: Brandon Mills, of; Richard Woods, 1B; and Kyle Drost, Inf/P.
Weiand, Albright, Treese and Rhoades are seniors. DeArmitt, Brisbin, Alley, McClellan, Mills and Woods are juniors. Drost, Brunner and Seidel are sophomores.
Newcomers this season include: Junior Steve Kubarek, OF; sophomores William Luke, OF; and Brandon Beech, 2B/OF; and freshmen Cory DeArmitt, 2B/OF; David Burns, 3B; Mike Guinard, OF; Kenny McConnell, OF; Chad Schilling, 3B; Ernie Kelley, OF/P; Chad Coho, 1B/3B; Shawn Shearer, OF; Danny Campbell, C.; and Alex Miller, C/2B.
“Concerns, right now, basically centers around our youth and inexperience,” said Conlon. “There are only have four seniors. We will be putting some kids out there in situations they have never been in. Hopefully, by the end of the year, they can grow in and mature into some decent ball players.”
Conlon is assisted by Tim Weiand and Bill Edevane and volunteer coaches Matt Ballos and Jeff Plummer.
“Obviously we want to get to the middle of the season and start to play our best ball, because I don’t expect to start off the bat playing our best baseball,” said Conlon. “I would like to see some young kids grow into some players that can step and build a future. We need Shawn and these older kids to lead these kids at the beginning of the year when they are going to struggle.”
Bellwood-Antis opens their 2004 season today at home against Philipburg-Osceola. The first pitch is set for 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Blue Devils travel to Glendale for a 4 p.m. game and on Friday return home for another 3:30 p.m. contest against Claysburg-Kimmel.