Baseball - Moravia vs. Tioga

Moravia's Nik Smith throws a pitch against Tioga Friday at Moravia High School. 

MORAVIA — The baseball field behind Moravia High School is looking a little different this year.

Different in a good way.

Gone are the wooden benches and fencing, replaced by a more useful dugout for players to retreat to when they're not on the field or, in Friday's case, when the weather interferes. Erecting dugouts at the baseball field is just one example of Moravia putting finances into its athletic programs — the school is also in the process of building a batting cage next to the field, though right now it remains unfinished.

"It's excellent and the kids have worked hard at it," Moravia coach Eric Gremli said. "Of course the administration — Cliff Smith has been great getting the field ready, putting in a lot of work, rebuilding the mound, dugouts and cages. The kids feel that support and want to practice their hardest every day knowing they have that community support."

In past years the Blue Devils played a good chunk of their home games at Ettinger Field off Aurora Street in Moravia. Now with the field improvements, Moravia plays its home games behind the high school, which is a far more convenient set up for the players and coaches.

"About three years ago we started making the move away from Ettinger Field which is a community-owned field that the school would take care of," Gremli said. "It just made a lot of sense, as far as cost effectiveness and walking out of our locker room out to the field — it's a bit more of a home field for the kids.

"I think big picture we'll look to fence in the field. We share it with the field hockey team so it can't be a fence the whole way. But we can do little things like add decals and paint in the dugout, little things like that."

As construction continues off the field, the Blue Devils are hoping to continue to build on it as well. Moravia has a young team this year and Gremli concedes that it might be a rebuilding season, but he commends his players for their positive attitudes and expects that better days are ahead.

On Friday, the Blue Devils fell to Tioga 8-0 in a four-inning game that was shortened due to rain. Gavin Stayton reached base twice on a single and a walk, while Nik Smith also singled. Tanner Jones, Nick Johnson, Connor Funk and Nate Eberhardt all earned walks.

"We lost seven seniors last year so we lost a lot of leadership and skill-position leadership too," Gremli said. "I'm starting a freshman, three sophomores and four juniors. We're working hard and the kids are grinding every day. They're keeping their heads up. We've taken our lumps this year but I think they've got that big picture in mind also."

Moravia returns to the field Thursday at home against Trumansburg.

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Sports writer Justin Ritzel can be reached at 282-2257 or at justin.ritzel@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @CitizenRitz.