The Canton Warriors’ baseball team accomplished some good things this season, but they also left a couple of reachable goals on the table. Coach Bob Rockwell, who picked up his 300th career victory in a 3-2 win over Williamson this year, was positive about the Warriors’ season, his 25th as Head Coach.
”15-5 is a good season, but we wanted to do better. Winning the league would have been nice and winning a district title would have been even better. Neither happened, but we played very competitive ball all season and beat some good teams.”
One of Canton’s big wins came against Towanda, who were leading the Warriors by one game in the NTL East at the time of their match-up. The Warriors’ victory pulled them even with the Black Knights in a very competitive NTL East. Three straight losses by the Warriors dropped them out of championship contention, but Canton battled through the remainder of their season to earn a #2 seed in the six-team Class A playoffs.
Rockwell points to the Towanda game, as well as Canton’s win in the District IV semifinal, as highlight games of their season. In the 5-1 playoff win over league-foe Sayre, Rockwell saw further proof of what he and assistant coach Lyle Wesneski had been seeing all season: their younger players were contributing in big ways. ”We had several underclassmen pitchers (Chase Pepper, Garrett Wesneski) that pulled their weight throughout the year, and a new catcher (Jacob Butcher) who played much better than we expected.” Rockwell is very optimistic about the experience that his young players earned, saying, “There is great hope for the future.”
Among the returning players that Rockwell will look to for even more prominent roles next season are first-team all-NTL player Garrett Wesneski and second-teamer Chase Pepper. Wesneski, a sophomore, went 4-2 on the mound for the Warriors and batted .515 with twenty-four RBI. Pepper, also a sophomore, provided Canton with possibly their best pitching performance of the season in the Warriors’ win over Sayre in the District playoffs. Pepper hit .268 on the season with eighteen RBI.
Second-team selection Emmett Watson returns as a senior next season, having batted .302 this year. Watson’s ability to play any fielding position proved valuable for the Warriors this season. Wes Moore and Josiah Bardo, both juniors, will also enter next season as returning starters.
In addition to Pepper, Wesneski and Butcher, fellow sophomore Connor Route received valuable playing time as the Warriors’ designated hitter this season.
Rockwell will have some holes to fill, as he loses four seniors who contributed immensely to the Warriors’ success. Infielder/Pitcher Scotty Rockwell, an All-NTL first-team selection, batted .435 this season, with twenty-five runs scored and sixteen stolen bases. He also went 1-0 on the mound, with two saves, in mostly a closer role.
Centerfielder/Pitcher Ben Pepper was a second-team All-NTL performer, and batted .352 this year with seventeen runs scored. Pepper was 3-2 as a pitcher, with one save. Ryan Ball was also selected to the NTL second-team, having batted .385 with twelve RBI. Rounding out the senior class is honorable mention All-NTL selection Derek Wilcox.
Rockwell reflected on his outgoing senior class of ball players, saying, “It will be tough to see them go. They’ve been with me since they were seven years old.”
At least two of the four will look to continue the recent trend of former Warriors taking their talents to a college baseball field. Scotty Rockwell will be playing ball for Bloomsburg University next season, and Ben Pepper will be attending and possibly playing for Mansfield University.
The Warriors, 15-5 during the regular season, picked up the District win over Sayre, then dropped the District final game to Montgomery, 4-0, giving them a 16-6 record for the year. Look for Canton to enter next season as a legitimate threat to win the NTL East title, as well as contend for a District Championship.
Congratulations to Coach Rockwell, Coach Wesneski and all of the Canton baseball team on a great season.