Baseball practices have begun at the local colleges, and even some high school levels, but the teams’ seasons are yet to start.
The Keystone College baseball team is getting ready to head to Colonial Heights, Virginia, this weekend for two games, against St. Lawrence University Saturday morning and Cabrini University Saturday night.
“We had an intersquad game with Scranton earlier,” explained head coach Jaime Shevchik. “But getting out of the cold, out of the indoor facilities, means a lot.”
He continued, “A lot of people just don’t get it. The indoor facility gets old. We have been out on the turf a few times, but baseball and softball are the only sports that do their training inside to play outside.”
“It is an adjustment we need to make, the southern schools are at the advantage,” Shevchik added.
Shevchik, who is in his 20th season at the helm of the program, joked, “If we played our season in a 100 by 50 building with some cages, we’d be great!”
“It is hard to sell northeast baseball to recruits, but our new field has changed that,” said the coach. “Once the weather breaks, it is a different story.”
The Giants are in the process of launching a fundraising campaign, looking to raise $80 thousand, the remainder of the costs of the field renovations.
“We have had significant donors already, including Regina Boehm,” he said.
“This will be one of the most unique baseball facilities in all of Division III,” explained Shevchik. “These upgrades will provide an enhanced fan and student-athlete experience and aid in the recruiting process.”
The upgrades include 55’ x 15’ brick dugouts, new infield, new turf halo, covered hitting facility, new pavilion, new bullpen/fencing, new brick wall/backstop netting, new concession stand with elevated press box, and two elevated party decks.
The program has secured half of the funding through anonymous donations and is asking for matching funds with five-year naming rights for the following areas: Covered hitting facility, pavilion, and press box.
Thanks to the generosity of a supporter, the initial work on the project is now underway.
In addition, the Woodlands Center for Athletics next to the baseball field has been upgraded into locker rooms, a team room and a new weight room.
The Giants won’t host a game on the Christy Mathewson Field until the end of the month against Kean University on March 27, due to our weather and the field condition.
“An interesting bit of trivia is in my 20 years of being head coach,” Shevchik explained, “we have only been out on our own field twice before our first game, in 2011 and 2016. Both of those years, we had mild winters, and both of those years we went to the College World Series.”
The team sees the trip to Virginia this week, followed by another trip to the Old Dominion state for games against Washington and Lee University next weekend.
After three games at Scranton University, against Arcadia, DeSales, and Immaculata, the Giants head to Auburndale, Florida for seven games for a chance get their field legs under them, and also as a chance to finish raising the money needed to complete the upgrades.
As for the Giants roster, Shevchik feels the Giants have a healthy amount of players- 43 between the varsity and junior varsity squads.
Included in those numbers are freshmen Brendan Kuharski, a Mid-Valley grad, and Anthony Dell’Aquila of Honesdale.
Keystone will start the season as the favorite, according to the Colonial States Conference preview, to collect their twelfth consecutive CSAC title. Of the six Giants on last year’s All-CSAC team, infielder Nick Carlini, an Abington Heights product, starting pitcher Nathan Hinkley and reliever Ramon Disla have eligibility for Keystone in 2020.
Coming off their lowest win total since moving from a junior college to a member of D-III, Keystone is expected to maintain their streak of Regional playoff bids since becoming eligible for the postseason.
“Last year, I thought we had the best team ever. But number-wise, statistically- not so much,” he said. “And our pitchers battled injuries.”
Shevchik explained that rankings in the beginning of the season are not that important to him, he just wants his charges to stay healthy and play their best baseball at the end of the season.
The team is looking forward to their 40-game regular season schedule, with games against Misericordia, SUNY Cobleskill, and Penn State-Berks circled on the calendar.
Shevchik said of those games, “Misericordia is always a good, local rivalry game. Cobleskill comes here, with two Keystone CWS players coaching them. Lance Ratchford, their head coach, and the pitching coach Austin Straub, also both coached with me in the Cape Cod League in the summer. Austin was also a coach here at Keystone for four or five years. And at the end of April, when Berks comes here, they are coached by a former pitcher, Justin Konnick.”
To make a donation to the Keystone College Giants
baseball team, please go to the team’s page at gokcgiants .com or p2p.idonate.com/p/a5d9e3c4-9eaf-405e-9ef9-f4b124a0eb84