So many shortstops.
Seriously. So many.
The Daily Item all-decade baseball team just as easily could have been a collection of shortstops — many of whom also pitched — and it would stand up to almost any argument.
It’s no wonder. Shortstop is often where you’ll find a team’s best athlete. In fact, among the shortstops who just missed the cut for our all-decade team are a 1,000-point scorer in basketball and a state wrestling silver medalist. There’s even an award-winning author.
Each would have made the all-decade team better with his inclusion, but they’re featured here among the “just missed” in the interest of fairness.
They, along with other players who were thisclose, are listed in alphabetical order.
Jake Gronsky (Danville, 2008-10) had a career batting average of .435 (94-for-216) with 72 runs scored and 53 RBIs over three seasons. He raked at a .507 clip (37-for-73) as a junior.
Kyle Leitzel (Shikellamy, 2014-16) batted .399 with 87 hits, 65 runs and 39 stolen bases, while winning 10 games and fanning 99 over three years. He hit .468 and went 5-0 (2.16 ERA) as a junior.
Nick Lorenz (East Juniata, 2011-14) had a .373 three-year average overshadowed by 124 strikeouts in 81 innings (despite not pitching as a senior). He batted .439 with 31 RBIs in his last season.
Blake Marks (Southern Columbia, 2013-16) posted tremendous four-year numbers: .429 average (106-for-247), 77 RBIs, 67 runs scored, 28 doubles, 26 steals, with four saves and 6.2 Ks per 7.
Bret Williams (Mount Carmel, 2014-16) raised his average in each of three seasons (.361, .380, .459), finishing with 57 RBIs, 50 runs, 16 doubles, 10 homers and 25 steals, plus seven wins and 112 Ks.
Tim Benner, OF-RHP,
Southern Columbia (2008-11)
Benner is one of just four players presented here to record back-to-back 30-hit seasons (Masser, Peters, Gronsky), but the only player to cap his career that way. He hit .563 (63-for-112) in his final two years, with 70 runs, 34 RBIs and 34 stolen bases. He also won 17 games over four years. He was named all-state in 2010 after batting .608 with 36 runs and 24 RBIs to go with a 6-2 record.
Darin Miller, 3B-RHP
Miller was limited to 12 games in his junior year by a knee injury, but by then he was already a .375 career hitter (66-for-176). He finished his career with 63 RBIs, 60 runs, 21 doubles, eight homers and 27 steals. Though he batted .405 in the injury shortened year, he was superb as a sophomore (.390, 23 RBIs, 20 runs). He pitched 33 2/3 career innings, going 2-1 with a save and 6.9 Ks per 7.
Nathan Miller, C-RHP
After becoming a full-time starter behind the plate as a sophomore, Miller ripped the ball at a .382 clip (66-for-173), while scoring 50 times and driving in 34 runs. He was also among the Valley’s most prolific base stealers, with 15 in each of his last two seasons and 42 in his career. He batted .415 as a junior and .403 as a senior, totaling 39 runs scored, 29 RBIs and 11 doubles in those years.
Anthony Renz, 3B-RHP,
It’s likely an ACL tear cost Renz all-decade recognition, a basketball injury having wiped out his junior baseball season. As a sophomore, he batted .387 with 22 RBIs and four home runs. He was The Daily Item Player of the Year as a senior after batting .471 (33-of-70) with 28 RBIs, 21 runs, 14 extra-base hits (five homers), and going 6-1 with a 1.83 ERA for a district championship squad.
John Wilson, LHP-1B,
Southern Columbia (2012-15)
Wilson pitched just one inning during his freshman year, so his impact — 21-7 with a 2.05 ERA and 213 strikeouts in 170 career innings — was seismic. He won at least six games in each of his final three seasons, punctuating his career with an 8-2 mark, a 1.25 ERA and 95 strikeouts with 13 walks in 67 innings in 2015. He saw his most at-bats that year, hitting .381 (24-for-63) with 14 RBIs.