A baseball season that was filled with so much promise came to a crashing halt last season.
Columbus North was ranked in the top five in the state at the beginning of the season, won the Conference Indiana Tournament and went 23-7. But an upset loss to rival Columbus East in the opening round of the sectional left a bad taste in the mouths of the Bull Dogs.
“We’ve had the best offseason that we’ve had since I’ve been here,” North coach Ben McDaniel said. “These guys have some big goals. Nobody likes the way the season ended last year, and they’re determined to make sure it ends different this year.”
McDaniel, who led the Bull Dogs to a sectional title in 2014, his first year at the helm, lost three starters who are now playing college baseball, including Division I recruits Devin Mann (Louisville), an All-State shortstop, and Cody Burton (Indiana State), one of North’s top two pitchers.
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The Bull Dogs also have a big void to fill behind the plate with the loss of Evan Finke (Snead State).
“We lost a lot of offensive production,” McDaniel said. “We graduated some seniors that left their mark on their program with several offensive records that they took with them. But we have a good core back, a good nucleus, and they’ve been working hard in the offseason and we’re excited to get started.”
North does have three Division I recruits still around, including senior pitcher/right fielder Collin Lollar (Ohio State) and senior first baseman Brice McDaniel (Purdue). Junior infielder Cooper Trinkle has committed to Evansville.
Lollar went 4-0 with a save and a 1.06 ERA and batted .395 with a team-high 12 doubles to go along with three home runs and 27 RBIs. Brice McDaniel batted .341 with three homers and 22 RBIs.
“With all of our seniors, we’ve seen a change in their approach to the offseason,” Ben McDaniel said. “Collin and Bryce understand that they have baseball taken care of the next four years, but they’re not looking past this year.”
Trinkle (.230, 10 RBIs) has started at second base the past two years and will be there or at shortstop. Senior Canaan Baum (.299, 22 RBIs, team-high 32 runs) enters his fourth year as the starting center fielder.
Sophomore Tyler Finke (.412, 11 RBIs) and junior Korry Drum (.297, seven RBIs) also started in the outfield last season. Finke will join Trinkle in the middle infield at either second or short.
Drum will be in left field, and Lollar will be in right when he isn’t pitching. When he is pitching, junior Nathan VanDeventer or freshmen Parker Maddox or Hayate Takauchi could be in right.
Juniors Wade Rankin and VanDeventer and sophomore Nate Petrusky are battling at third base, while senior Ben Thompson and junior Nolan Wetherald are battling for the catching job. Freshman Jakob Meyer could play third or first, and junior Logan Jones will back up Brice McDaniel at first and could pitch or DH.
VanDeventer went 4-1 with a save and a 3.61 ERA last season. He is battling for the No. 2 pitching spot with Petrusky (2-0, 2.33), Maddox and Meyer.
The Bull Dogs, who open the season Saturday against Franklin, are ranked No. 14 in Class 4A in the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association preseason poll and No. 15 in 4A by Prep Baseball Report.
“It’s kind of a different situation this year,” Ben McDaniel said. “Last year, we were ranked in the top five at the beginning of the season. They kind of felt slighted this year, but they know there’s work to do. That’s kind of fueled the fire.”
2016 baseball schedule
April 4;at East Central;6 p.m.
April 5;at Seymour;5 p.m.
April 8;Super Prep Tournament at Louisville;5:30 p.m.
April 9;Super Prep Tournament at Louisville;TBA
April 12;at Perry Meridian;5:30 p.m.
April 14;at Shelbyville;5:30 p.m.
April 16;at Jeffersonville;noon
April 19;at Franklin Central;5:30 p.m.
April 21;Jennings County;5:30 p.m.
April 22;Hauser;5 p.m.
April 23;Roncalli;11 a.m.
April 26;at Southport;6 p.m.
April 28;Lawrence Central;6 p.m.
April 30;at Greensburg;10 a.m.
May 4;Columbus East;5 p.m.
May 5;at Greenwood;5:30 p.m.
May 6;Floyd Central;6 p.m.
May 11;Bloomington South;6 p.m.
May 14;Conference Indiana Tournament;TBA
May 16;Fishers;6 p.m.
May 20;at McCutcheon Tournament;TBA
May 21;at McCutcheon Tournament;TBA