By MADDY VITALE
Batters, look out. Ocean City High School’s formidable pitchers now have something else to give them an advantage.
One of the baseball team’s assistant coaches, Frank Coppenbarger, who formerly served as the clubhouse manager the Phillies for 30 years, recommended someone to upgrade the pitcher’s mound at the high school’s baseball field.
Now, the mound is up to the standards of the team, which currently has four players headed to Division I colleges. Reflecting the strength of Ocean City’s baseball program, other pitchers have played for Division I teams in the last few years.
“Improving and upgrading the mound will just make our pitchers perform even better,” noted the school district’s Athletic Director Geoff Haines. “Over the last couple of years we have had six Division I pitchers. Two of the kids were drafted by the major leagues.”
Haines added that it was a team effort to improve the pitcher’s mound, not just the players and coaches, but the community.
“It is a testament to the coaches, kids and parents,” he said.
The city allows the school district to use its fields at Fifth Street and Bay Avenue.
“It is so great that we have such a cooperative relationship with the city,” Haines said. “They let us use their fields and they provide us with a lot of maintenance and ground work by their Public Works Department.”
Head Baseball Coach Andrew Bristol, an advanced placement World History and Criminal Justice teacher at the high school, noted that the four players committed to Division I programs are seniors Matt Nunan and Gannon Brady, Tommy Finnegan, a junior, and sophomore Duke McCarron.
Bristol explained that it has been years since the mound was redone.
The team, specifically the star pitchers, made a request.
“Collectively, they came to me and said it hadn’t been fixed for a while and was low and there was wear and tear,” Bristol said. “The last time we redid the mound was over five years ago.”
Specifically, the mound wasn’t high enough. It has to be 10 inches high.
Star pitcher, Gannon Brady, commented.
“It’s awesome that we have the opportunity for the Phillies to help out with our new mound. Our field has always been great to pitch on, and this will make it even better,” Brady said. “I’m excited for the upcoming season and can’t wait to get started.”
Nunan, another top pitcher, said he is “really grateful.”
“I know it will help us and I’m just really excited to get the season started,” Nunan said.
He added that the 2021 season is especially significant since they didn’t have a season last year due to the pandemic.
“Everyone is anxious to get on the field again since our season was cancelled last year,” Nunan said.
When it comes to baseball, Bristol pointed out that the team has to capitalize on its strong points.
“We need to take advantage of our strength, and our strength is pitching,” Bristol said. “If a pitcher wants to go pro, then they have to play on the same mound that they would in high school and college. We are really just making it so that it is up to standard.”
The season starts April 1.
“We are ready to get going. We are playing some of the top teams in the state this year and we will be on a lot of people’s radar,” Bristol said. “I think with allowing us to play a full schedule and be in the playoffs, it is a step toward normalcy. That is a great step in that direction returning to what the kids need.”