Local duo makes most of final season
HUNTINGDON – Every college baseball player hopes that his last go around is a good one.
And for Cole Walters and Andrew Groninger, two local baseball players at Division III Juniata College, that hope is now coming true.
Walters, who played his high school baseball at Mount Union, plays three positions for Juniata – first base, third base and catcher. In high school one of his teams went as far as the PIAA semi-finals.
“First, the biggest difference between college and high school is the caliber of teams that we play and that every game is a challege on a daily basis,” Walters said.
The second difference Walters pointed out is his time allotment during the season: “It is a balancing act between games, practices and class.”
Although Walters plays the two corner positions in the infield, he plays most of the time behind the plate.
“It’s a lot different than in high school,” Walters explained, “Here I get to call my own game. As a senior, I have grown to know all of our pitchers and what they throw.”
As of Monday, Walters was the leading hitter for Juniata at .266. His career totals include coming into his senior year an average of .270 in 78 games. He had 61 hits with 226 official at bats. He had four doubles, two home runs and 30 RBIs.
Groninger, who played on the Cocolamus flats of East Juniata, has had to work his way into the pitching spotlight.
“When I first got here I had to develop my mechanics,” Groninger said, “I didn’t see much action as a freshman or sophomore, but I got more time as a junior. This being my senior year, I brought all I learned into fruition.”
Groninger pointed out that he had to go through the process of learning new pitches when he arrived on campus.
“When I first got here all I could throw was a four-seam fast ball,” Groninger noted. “But, now I can throw a curve, a split- finger change up and a two-seam fast ball.”
One of the highlights of Groninger’s career came this spring in Florida when he got his first start and he had a complete nine inning game. In that game, he beat Medaille, 3-2, as he gave up six hits and struck out four.
For his career coming into his senior season, Groninger had been in 16 games and had a 1-1 record. He had pitched in 24 innings, walked 22 and struck out six.
Both players indicated that when they were freshmen, the Juniata team made it to the Landmark Conference finals and that as a team was their biggest thrill.
The Juniata manager, Jesse Leonard, gave his thoughts on both players.
“Cole has a been a starter most of his career here.” Leonard said. “He is old enough to call his own game. He knows the hitters in the league. (Catching) is one of the most important positions on the field.”
“I was really happy for Andrew as in his first start of his career, he went nine innings for us in Florida and got the win. He has been a starter or a worked out of the bullpen as it depends on our situation.”
As Juniata headed into April the team had a 5-14 record, but for Walters and Groninger this last season in college baseball has already been productive.