Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong for Greyhound baseball in 2018. They lost their ace, Ethan Stouffer before the season even started, then stumbled to a 2-15 record in what quickly became a spring to forget.
This year, under the guidance of first-year head coach Brian Etter, the Greyhounds hope to move forward and get the storied high school program back on track.
“I am not one to look in the the past. It doesn't matter to me what happened last year, I am more worried about the future,” said the first-year head coach. “I am used to winning, I've won two district titles and a state championship. That's the kind of tradition I want to bring to Shippensburg baseball.”
Etter, a Chambersburg native, played high school ball for the Trojans before continuing his baseball career at Shippensburg University. As a coach, he spent six years as an assistant to legendary 800-win head coach Bob Thomas at Chambersburg, and has coach several years at the travel ball level.
“I'm passionate about baseball,” Etter said. “I found out the [head coach] position was available and wanted to get back into it. I love being around the game. The only thing better than playing the game is teaching the game.”
On the field, the Greyhounds have a solid group of returning players that includes staff ace Ethan Stouffer. Last year, Stouffer made just one appearance, tossing four scoreless innings in a start late in the year at Palmyra.
With Stouffer sidelined for most of last season, the Ship staff had zero pitchers with varsity experience. Andrew Kitner, Scott Witter, Chandler Durf and others showed flashes, but no one could be counted on consistently to take the Greyhounds deep into games. Pitching should be a question mark once again this spring.
“We have some good arms. We have guys that can throw the ball well, they just need to learn how to pitch,” Etter stated. “If you are a good pitcher you don't need to strike everybody out, you can throw to contact and let the defense do the work. You can't defend walks.”
In the batter's box, senior Nic Weltz is the Greyhounds' leading returning hitter, posting a .306 average a season ago. Jake Frey, Max Kalb, Logan Martin, Luke Davis, Christian Melendez, Kitner, Witter, and Durf also return.
“I've got some talented, athletic guys.” Coach Etter said. “We've got a lot of speed. If we can get on base, we are going to push the envelope and make defenses play us. We are going to run, hit and run, and play small ball if we have to. I adapt to the kids, I don't want them to adapt to me. They have their game and it is my job to get them to do what they do best.”
So far, the new head coach and the players have gotten off on the right foot.
According to junior pitcher Chandler Durf, Etter wants to be their coach, not a friend – which is something the team has taken advantage of in the past.
“Everybody loves the new coach. The first night [Coach Etter] demanded respect, and all the players gave it to him,” Durf stated.
“You never know what to expect as a new coach, but I had 29 guys at the first night in open gym,” Etter said. “The work ethic has been outstanding. I can't praise the guys enough for what they have done in each and every practice. It's just a matter now of getting that talent on the field, taking ground balls and putting the work in.”
The Greyhounds' goal, first and foremost, is to be better than they were last year. Once they accomplish that, they want to keep building in hopes of ultimately making a playoff push.
“It's easy to want goals but the amount of work you put in determines if you obtain those goals or not,” Etter claimed. “For me playoffs is always the goal. I want to play in June. Districts start in June and that is where I want to be.”
“We are ready to come back with a vengeance. Last year was just a bad year, now we are looking to come back and show what we've got,” Durf said. “The main goal is to better than we were, build upon what we have and just keep improving. I am most excited to see how far we go.”
The Greyhounds open their season this Friday with a road date against the Mechanicsburg Wildcats. First pitch from Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Park in Mechanicsburg is set for 4:15 p.m.