HOUTZDALE — The Moshannon Valley baseball team welcomes back 11 letterwinners for the 2021 season including four in senior Michael Kephart and juniors Kadin Hansel, Michael Kitko and Ethan Webb, who also lettered going into the 2020 campaign that was wiped out by the pandemic.
Seniors Jayden Coder and Trey Lyon, juniors Sam Lukehart and Christian Nelson and sophomores Roman Faulds, Jacob O’Donnell and Zach Witherow join those four in giving second-year Black Knight head coach Ryan Cornelius a solid core to work with.
“We are fortunate enough to have a lot (of letterwinners) with a lot of talent,” he said. “I expect unity. We win as a team or fail as a team. I expect the letterwinners to help younger players feel welcome.”
Even though Mo Valley didn’t get a high school season in last year, quite a few of the kids on the roster were able to get plenty of work in summer leagues and on travel teams, which Cornelius says was a big boost to the program.
‘It was a tremendous help,” he said. “Most played in leagues and a lot used multiple cages. We have other coaches helping the program and players. I couldn’t be more grateful as a head coach to have other coaches and parents believing in the program.”
Even with the solid summer and fall seasons, there was still plenty to work on in the preseason according to Cornelius.
“It was a little slow going at first,” he said. “We had to knock the rust off.”
But now the Black Knights are in full swing, having played three games so far this season. Mo Valley is 1-2, but has been in every game, thanks in large part to a deep pitching staff.
“We have great pitching depth this year,” Cornelius said. “We are about eight players deep, and each player will log innings at some point. I don’t like to overwork our star arms when you have equal depth behind them.”
Cornelius also says the Knights have a strong lineup with several potential breakout hitters.
“Although a young squad, we have solid hitters top to bottom,” Cornelius said. “Even guys that are not starters have been working exceptionally hard to get in the lineup. Breakout season players I think will be between Michael Kitko, Zach Witherow and (freshman) Tanner Kephart. It’s really a toss up being a young squad. Anyone can really shock you.”
With a strong group of letterwinners, a deep pitching staff and potential throughout the lineup, Cornelius, who will once again be assisted by Richie Ball, believes the Knights can reach for some solid goals.
“We want to win the Mo Valley League, be competitive in the ICC and make playoffs,” he said.
“I believe we have a young talented team. Our junior program coaches are excellent and it shows as players come up to the next level. Everyone in the community and parents really put effort among these kids. Each part shows and I can’t thank them enough.”
Mo Valley is back in action today at West Branch.
*Jayden Coder, *Michael Kephart, *Trey Lyon.
*Kadin Hansel, *Michael Kitko, *Sam Lukehart, *Christian Nelson, *Ethan Webb.
Cameron Collins, *Roman Faulds, Tristan Gregg, James Hummel, *Jacob O’Donnell, Mason Phillips, Andre Wells, *Zach Witherow.
8—at West Branch. 13—at Mount Union. 15—Glendale. 16—at Harmony. 20—at Juniata Valley. 22—at Williamsburg. 23—Harmony. 27—Claysburg-Kimmel. 29—at Bellwood-Antis. 30—at Curwensville, 4:15 p.m..
4—West Branch. 6—Mount Union. 11—at Glendale. 13—Juniata Valley.
Games begin at 4:30 p.m. unless noted