For Stoverstown and Jefferson, it's been a tale of two teams during the COVID-19 era
- Jefferson is off to an 8-2-1 start in the Central League.
- Defending Central League champion Stoverstown has struggled to a 4-6 record.
- The two teams were supposed to meet on Tuesday, but got rained out.
JEFFERSON – For a night, it seemed like the Stoverstown Tigers' baseball team had finally found their bats.
Having been shut out three times already this season, the Tigers jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning against the home-standing Jefferson Titans.
However, the abbreviated 2020 season has been a bit of a roller-coaster ride for the defending Central League champions. The ups usually come with some downs.
Tuesday night was no different.
In the bottom of the first, the Titans quickly scratched across a run before a torrential downpour forced the contest to be postponed.
The two sides will restart anew sometime later this summer.
Tigers struggling: Such misfortune has been way more common than normal for veteran Stoverstown skipper Tim Thoman this summer.
The Tigers, who entered the night with an uncharacteristic 4-6 mark and a collective .214 team batting average, have had to battle through a number of different issues this year, starting primarily with the situation surrounding COVID-19.
The unusual circumstances that the pandemic has thrown the country has not spared Thoman’s club.
“The reality of life these days kind of keeps things in perspective,” Thoman said. “We’ve been able to count on a great lineup these past 10 years or so, but with COVID there have been a lot of changes. We have guys going to college and trying to get other classes they need to graduate and we’ve had some guys that lost their jobs.”
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For Tuesday evening’s contest, Thoman only had 10 players in uniform. While that has been a problem for many local teams over the past few years, one thing that Thoman has rarely had to worry about was player availability. This year things are differrent.
“Probably one of the biggest reasons that we’ve had so much success at Stoverstown over the past decade is that we’ve had one of the most dedicated and committed teams,” he said. “But this year, with everything going on, it’s certainly different.”
Titans excelling: While the conditions so far during the 2020 season have been less than kind to Thoman and his organization, Jefferson manager Pat Schultz can attribute some of his team's success so far this year to those same changes.
Starting the season in late June has been a boon for the Titans, who entered the night at 8-2-1. Known for getting off to notoriously slow starts before catching fire as the season winds down, Schultz and his club now find themselves fighting for the regular-season crown as the season nears its midway point.
“The running joke around the team has been that we don’t really start to play our ‘A’ game until August,” he said. “And this year, we’ve just kept the calendar the same. It was always August.”
Some players who normally would have issues making many of the team’s games regularly have actually benefited from the virus.
“(Jordan) Witmer, our catcher, actually works in Hershey,” Schultz said. “And he lives in Mechanicsburg. But with COVID he gets to work at home now. So he can actually leave his house around 4 o’clock and get down here in time for games.”
Neither manager is taking the current trajectories of their clubs for granted. Thoman is hoping that his squad can turn things around down the stretch to secure at least one of the four CL playoff berths this summer.
Even if the Tigers don't make the playoffs, the Stoverstown manager is just happy there has been a season.
“We can only hope that everything comes around,” Thoman said. “But whatever happens, I’m just grateful that we can all be out and be able to socialize and play baseball.”
League parity: Schultz is well aware that parity around the league is perhaps at its highest level in many, many years. Teams such Pleasureville (3-8), Dillsburg (4-8) and Stoverstown may be near the bottom of the standings, but all three of those clubs have proven that they can knock off any of the top teams on any given night.
Dillsburg has already defeated Stoverstown and Glen Rock (8-3) this season. The Sox have also played first-place Mechanicsburg (9-1) tough twice, as well as giving Schultz and his team a rugged time.
“None of the teams in this league are walkovers by any stretch of the imagination,” Schultz said. “They are all legit and they have solid pitching and can hit and it just hasn’t worked out for them. (Dillsburg) … We had to come back twice against them. As a whole, this league is, in my opinion, considerably stronger than it has been in quite a long time.”
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.