The good news for the Columbus Christian baseball program is that it didn’t lose any players to graduation.
The bad news for the Crusaders is that a few players from last season aren’t playing this year. That has left the team with only 11 players — three of which are eighth-graders — to begin the season.
“We’ll have some eighth-graders that will have to be playing some big innings,” Columbus Christian coach Jamey Reed said.
The Crusaders will have a little experience on the mound with senior Payton Ingram, juniors Logan Roth and Connor Graham and sophomore Levi Sallee. The same is true at catcher with returning senior Jacob Mee.
Sallee plays first when he isn’t pitching, while Graham and Ingram play shortstop and Roth plays center field. Junior Evan Reed returns at third.
Sophomore Aaron Almaralez and Kyle Foster return in left and right. Eighth-grader C.J. Reed will step in at second base.
Eighth-grader Josh Jones could see action in the outfield. Eighth-grader Noah Mee could play first when Sallee is pitching.
The Crusaders finished 5-11 last season.
“I think we’ve had some positive practices,” Jamey Reed said. “I hope to definitely improve on that 5-11 mark. I’d like to be over .500.”
The Panthers lost eight seniors from a team that went 16-11.“It’s tough to lose eight seniors and rock on, but that’s what we have to do,” Jennings coach Gabe Lowman said.The Panthers lost ace hurler Caleb Eder, but return another standout pitcher and shortstop in junior Tyler Vogel. Seniors Jacob Wingate and Justin Pettit, junior Garrett Marsh, freshman Josh Pettit and senior Jake Clark also will see some action on the mound.“We’re a little short on pitching this year,” Lowman said. “We had so many kids last year, I couldn’t throw them all.”Senior Owen Land returns at second, and senior Avery Johnson played third and short. Justin Pettit was a part-time starter at catcher and also could also play first or the outfield.
Looking to fill the other spots are junior Bret Sawyer at catcher, Wingate at first, Josh Pettit in left, junior Matt Kirchner in center and Clark in right. Also vying for playing time are senior Kobe Eder in the outfield and possibly infield, junior Tanner Miller in the infield and junior Shaun Houser at catcher.
“I feel like our offense, 1 through 9, should be a little bit better than we were last year,” Lowman said. “I think our pitching will be a little bit worse, and I think our defense will be OK. Our offense will hopefully carry us through some games. Defense and pitching-wise, we’re really going to have to improve as we go along.”
The Lancers have a new coach in Michael Bryant, an assistant with the program the past three years. Bryant also was Edinburgh’s head Babe Ruth coach and has coached most of the current team members since they were 10 years old. He will inherit a team that lost five seniors after going 7-16 last spring.“We’re really young, but we have a really good group of freshmen and sophomores coming in,” Bryant said. “It will take us a little bit. I would say we’re definitely in a rebuilding year.”Bryant’s son, senior Kinser Bryant, is back this season after sitting out last year. Kinser Bryant, who plays short, third and outfield and pitches, was an All-Mid-Hoosier Conference player as a sophomore.Sophomore Zach Murphy was the Lancers’ top pitcher and an all-conference player last season. Also back are senior second baseman-pitcher Jentry Lange, sophomore catcher Parker Bryant and junior Kyle Armel, who moves from left to center.
Murphy, freshman Colton Henderson and senior transfer Marcus Ruch can play short, third or the outfield. Senior Connor Goddard, who started as a freshman and didn’t play the past two years, or sophomore Ryan Gaston will be at first. Juniors Zach Smiley and Keegan Fida can play outfield, and junior Noah Martin will be the DH.
Freshmen Zack Giles and Henderson and sophomore Tavian Cosby could see action on the mound. Freshman Ethan Armel will be the backup catcher.
“We’re really deep,” Michael Bryant said. “We could probably put three guys easily at each position.”
The Eagles will be full of experience, with seven starters returning from a team that finished 6-16. Six of those are seniors.Seniors Dakota Isley, Matt Redmond, Hunter Ellis, Austin Heminger and Tanner Hamm and sophomore Alex Carney figure to log plenty of innings on the mound this spring.“I think that’s one of the things we worked on the offseason the most,” Kyle Heminger said. “You have to hit your spots and throw strikes and have confidence you can go up there and get people out. We just don’t have that one or two overpowering kind of pitchers, so we’re going to have to go by committee this year.”Hamm is a four-year starter at first. Senior Jake Glidden at second and Redmond at short also return. Isley is back at third and also can catch, while sophomore Grant Suding can play third and the outfield, as well as pitch.Sophomore Tristan Richards returns in left. Ellis is back in center, and Heminger played right, but also can play first and infield.
The catching spot is wide open.
“It’s always positive in a high school sport when you have six seniors who will make a major impact on what you’re doing,” Brown County coach Kyle Heminger said. “The kids have really been working hard in offseason workouts to get stronger and build arm strength.”
2016 baseball schedule
April 8;Indiana Deaf;5:30 p.m.
April 9;at Madison Shawe (2);11 a.m.
April 11;Horizon Christian;5 p.m.
April 14;Indianapolis Tindley;5 p.m.
April 16;Southwestern (Shelby);10 a.m.
April 20;at Hauser JV;5 p.m.
April 21;Indianapolis Tindley;5 p.m.
May 2;Providence Cristo Rey;5:30 p.m.
May 4;Traders Point Christian;5:30 p.m.
May 6;Horizon Christian;5:30 p.m.
May 13;Bethesda Christian;5:30 p.m.
May 16;at Crothersville;5 p.m.
May 30;Dugger Union (2);11 a.m.