Beaver Falls, PA - It′s not uncommon in college athletics that a team′s top player is lost before the season ever starts. Injuries and transfers are a way of life, especially in NCAA Division III sports.
However, it′s unlikely that a team has ever been more proud of losing its top returning players than the Geneva College baseball team. The team expected righthander Mike Jeffreys (Moon) to be its ace this season when it headed to Florida for its spring trip. Instead, Jeffreys will already be there - as part of the Kansas City Royals organization.
"Mike has enjoyed a great career with us at Geneva and has maybe a once in a lifetime opportunity in front of him and he should go pursue his dream," said Geneva coach Alan Sumner, who has worn number 26 as a player and coach at Geneva and will now be entering his 26th season as the head coach. "This was a no- brainer."
"Of course we are going to miss him on the field, but honestly we will miss him a lot more off it. He is simply a great kid and has been a wonderful example to the rest of our student-athletes. We wish him nothing but the best and we know that he will have great success in the professional ranks."
While Jeffreys and his 94 mile per hour fastball look to build on his two-time All-Conference honors and 1.73 Earned Run Average, the team he left behind also has a lot to build upon. The Golden Tornadoes have 19 returning players and 11 newcomers.
Highlighting the returning experience will be a solid infield. A pair of former Freedom players, now seniors, will man second and third bases - Adam Teets at third base and Jeremy Herzog at second. Herzog batted .312 last season. The shortstop will be be sophomore Andy Santana (San Pedro de Marcoris, DR/Desert Christian), who started 36 games there last year.
Moving into the gap on the mound created by Jeffreys′ departure will be a solid crew of experience, led by senior Caleb Kilgore (North Apollo, PA/Apollo Ridge), whose 44 innings last year lead the returners. The others expected to see action are Drew Nichols (New Wilmington, PA/Wilmington), Ian Macdonald (Grantham, PA/West Shore Christian Academy) and Tanner Propst (Chambersburg, PA/Cumberland Valley Christian).
While Mike Jeffreys has moved on, his family will still have a presence. His brother Dan Jeffreys and Aaron Witman (Greencastle, PA/Shalom Christian Academy) will handle the catching duties.
"This season the team is a year older and our upperclassmen will need to step up offensively from last season, our defense will be solid," Sumner said. "We have strong depth with 30 guys including a strong cast of first years who are very competitive for playing time. Even in pitching, we have a lot of depth in our pitching this year with 11 pitchers."
Geneva is scheduled to open its season Saturday, March 1st in Lancaster, PA to face Lancaster Bible before heading down to Florida.
Geneva College invites students to accept the challenge of an academically excellent, Christ-centered education. Offering nearly 40 undergraduate majors, Adult Degree Programs with fully online and campus-based options, and seven graduate degrees, Geneva has programs that place students at the forefront of higher learning. Adhering to the inerrancy of Scripture, a Geneva education is grounded in God′s word as well as in a core curriculum designed to prepare students vocationally to think, write and communicate well in today′s world.
* Pictured above (left to right): Adam Teets, T.J. Lambert, Jeremy Herzog, Garrett Swanson, and Caleb Kilgore.