HEISER: CSY baseball program rises from ashes
- The Christian School of York baseball team is 8-0 so far this season.
- The Crusaders are ranked No. 1 in the latest District 3-A power ratings.
- CSY has two players hitting above .600 this season and another player hitting over .500.
Just two years ago, the Christian School of York baseball program was in danger of disappearing.
The Crusaders went just 1-9 in 2014. There was even talk that the school may drop the sport.
Just two years later, under some new leadership, CSY is not only surviving, it's thriving.
Tuesday, the Crusaders faced a Commonwealth Christian Athletic Conference showdown of unbeaten teams vs. Lancaster County Christian. CSY was leading 3-0 in the top of the fifth when play was suspended because of rain. The game is scheduled to be completed Wednesday.
Pending the outcome of that contest, the Crusaders stand at 8-0 and are No. 1 in the latest District 3-A power ratings by a comfortable margin.
That's a stunning improvement in just 24 months.
CSY's head coach, Joe Cordora, was blunt in his assessment of the program in 2014, saying it was in a "shambles."
Cordora was retired from the Army and coaching baseball in Georgia in 2014, but his son, Devon, was a junior at CSY. Through his son, he kept track of the program's struggles.
"When (school officials) called me they said: 'Listen, it's terrible. We need to fix this thing,'" said Cordora, who turns 46 on Thursday.
Giant leap forward: So Cordora, who played 16 years in the Central York Baseball League, mostly with Shiloh and the York Yankees, moved back to the York area and took over the program in 2015.
The improvement was immediate. Last year, the Crusaders finished 8-9 and qualified for the District 3-A playoffs.
"We basically treated them like military," Cordora said about his first year with the Crusaders. "... A lot of those guys were soccer players. We put them through a lot to get ready."
This year, CSY has taken another giant leap forward, and the Crusaders community is definitely taking notice.
"It's really cool," Cordora said. "... School is really crazy right now. The crowds are really big. A lot of the student body is turning out and the teachers are even involved. It's been great. That's what winning does."
Flying under the radar: CSY, as a small private school, often flies under the radar when it comes to York County athletics. It competes in the CCAC against other Class A Christian schools, and not in the higher-profile York-Adams League, which is dominated by much larger public schools. Cordora said the Crusaders have offered to play some York-Adams teams, but because of CSY's Class A status, the local public schools are reluctant to play the Crusaders and possibly lose District 3 power ratings points.
"It just doesn't work out," Cordora said.
Instead, CSY has concentrated on blowing away CCAC foes. Before Tuesday's game vs. LCC, the Crusaders had outscored their first eight foes by an average score of 12.4-2.1. They won each of those first eight games by five runs or more.
Team standouts: The heart and soul of the Crusaders are senior catcher Matt Taylor, senior shortstop/pitcher Anthony Torreullas, junior shortstop/pitcher Ben Bills and junior third baseman Connor Miller.
The foursome is putting up "video-game type numbers," Cordora said.
Bills was All-CCAC last year as a sophomore. This season, he's 3-0 as a pitcher and batting .609. Torreullas' numbers are nearly identical. He's also 3-0 as a pitcher and hitting .607 at the plate. Taylor is batting .522 and leads the CCAC with 20 RBIs. And Miller comes in with a .489 average, compared to just a .175 mark last year.
All of those numbers were compiled before Tuesday's game vs. LCC. In Tuesday's showdown, Ben Bills was pitching a shutout when play was stopped, with seven strikeouts and zero walks. He also homered at the plate. Miller, meanwhile, belted a two-run double.
Taylor is committed to playing for Lancaster Bible College next season, while Torreullas has signed on to play at Nyack College, an NCAA Division II Christian school in New York. Bills has also verbally committed to Nyack. All three have worked on their skills at Backyard University in Red Lion, which is run by former York Revolution player Jason Aspito.
Cordora also made sure to credit the contributions of his team's role players and his assistant coaches, Ed Bills and Jay Halicki. Ed Bills is Ben's father.
Good combination: The CSY head man said his association with CSY came at a perfect time, for both him and the school.
"After I left the Army, the team and I were both looking for a transition," said Cordora, who is a senior at Penn State Harrisburg on the GI Bill. "Getting the job really helped me move on after the military and the team got a new start and stability."
"... It's crazy I'm even coaching. It just worked out great for me and my school."
The future: After six more regular-season games, the Crusaders can focus on the postseason, both in the conference and District 3.
"Last year, we just wanted to be competitive," Cordora said. "This year we want to compete for the conference title. And district play means the world to us. We need to keep pushing to stay in the top four (in the district power ratings) to get that home game (in the first round). I think we have the pitching to compete. If we can get good defense and hit, I think we'll be OK."
So far this season, CSY has been more than OK.
The Crusaders have been a revelation.
— Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.