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NTL BASEBALL: FIRST-YEAR HEAD COACH KYLE SMITH & LONE SENIOR/SON CADEN SMITH LEAD HORNET REBUILD (2024-06-07)

Northern Tier WEST Sports Report
WELLSBORO — It was a true rebuilding season for Wellsboro in ’24 as first-year Head Coach Kyle Smith led the inexperienced Hornets to an 8-12 overall record. 

Wellsboro opened the season on April 26th with a 9-6 loss to rival North Penn-Mansfield, then didn’t play another complete game for 17 days .. not the ideal start to a season when your lineup consists of a lone senior and only a handful of players who have any varsity playing time.

“The baseball season got off to a very slow start due to the weather and field conditions,” says Coach Smith of his inaugural campaign. “But with only one senior, I thought the team progressed nicely and we played some very solid baseball down the stretch.”

The Hornets came back after their 2-week-plus layoff and earned their first win of the season, 12-4 over a Coudersport team that went 14-3 in their league this year. Three more games in three days led to a win over Cowanesque Valley and a pair of losses in a doubleheader with NTL-I champ Troy.

Two days off led to a loss to 4A Jersey Shore and three more days off led to a second loss to Mansfield, this time by a 2-0 score. The Hornets then embarked on an eight day stretch where they’d play seven games and go 3-4.

“We had to get creative after a while to allow us to play a complete season,” says Smith, “We finished 8-12 and had a few lopsided losses, but we also competed with several of the top teams in our league .. and our non-league schedule was challenging again this season.”

Included in the 8-day stretch was a pair of splits, with District 4 2A champ Wyalusing and with Athens, as well as a loss to 2A District runner-up South Williamsport. The Hornets would finish 1-4 in their non-league games, having also lost to 2A No. 1 seed Hughesville, 3-1, and to 5A Shikellamy in the season finale.

Smith didn’t have to look far for a source of leadership as son Caden was the Hornets’ lone senior and had another great season to cap a stellar high school career.

“Caden has been the only baseball player in his grade since he began his high school career,” says the elder Smith, “He contributed to a league champion team as a freshman and has been a starter at multiple positions over the years. He’s developed a high baseball IQ and has always been one of those players who will do all the little things you want from your players.”

Smith finished the season with a .371 batting average and reached base at a .451 clip. His 23 base hits led the Hornets and gives the team captain 97 hits for his career while also collecting 17 runs scored, eight RBIs, seven stolen bases and six walks this season.

Sophomore Marek Mascho led the Hornets’ rotation with 41 innings pitched on the season, going 2-3 with a 2.90 ERA and 21 strikeouts. Last season’s All-Tioga County Rookie of the Year also scored 18 runs and had seven RBI while leading the team with a .375 batting average.

“Marek has a good feel for the game,” says Smith, “and his best seasons are still ahead of him.”

The Hornets’ have a good core of juniors who contributed heavily this season and set themselves up to be next season’s leaders. 

“Our outfielders .. juniors Gabe Sprouse (.298 BA, .344 OBP, 17 H, 9 R, 18 RBI), Lucas Cuneo (.192 BA, .295 OBP, 10 H, 6 R) and Alec Magli (…317 BA, .517 OBP, 13 H, 5 R, 8 RBI, 11 BB) kept us in a lot of games with their solid defense,” says Coach Smith, “and Ryder Bowen (.234 BA, .294 OBP, 11 H, 7 R, 8 RBI) .. another junior .. played solid defensively at third base.”

Including Mascho, Wellsboro had a large group of freshmen and sophomores on the roster. 

“We had 14 underclassmen on the team this season,” says Smith, “and we relied heavily on their abilities throughout the year.”

“Sophomore Cameron Owlett (.244 BA, .279 OBP, 10 H, 10 R) became a starter this season and contributed offensively and defensively,” Smith continued, “and freshman Coen Tennis (.189 BA, .283 OBP, 10 H, 10 R) started and caught all 20 games for us this year and began to find his hitting stroke late in the season.”

Caden Smith was a strong #2 arm for Wellsboro, going 4-1 with 24 innings pitched with a 2.33 ERA and nine Ks, while some underclassmen got the opportunity to pitch quality innings for the Hornets. 

“Sophomores Drayden McGee and Dylan Copp and freshman Maxwell Mascho all saw time on the mound for us this season,” says Smith, “so they’ll help form a strong nucleus of pitching options moving forward for the program.”

In their 14 losses, the Hornets were beaten by an average of under six runs per game, which included five of their losses coming by two runs or less. Smith knows how important playing in close games is, especially for his previously inexperienced squad. 

“Although we missed qualifying for the district playoffs,” Coach Smith says, “I thought our young team took the necessary steps forward to be able to win a few of those close games in the years to come.”
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