This year’s Columbus North baseball team will look a little different than last year’s regional championship squad that reached the final four in Class 4A.
A number of new faces are taking over starting spots after the Bull Dogs lost seven seniors to graduation. Ben McDaniel is looking at one of the youngest rosters he’s had, but that didn’t stop him from putting together the hardest regular-season schedule he’s created thus far.
“I want to play the best competition I can play during the regular season because I think that gets us ready to play during the postseason,” McDaniel said. “… No doubt we’re going to struggle being so young. There will be some learning opportunities, and we’ll have to look to our seniors to show their leadership in our growth opportunities.”
The bulk of North’s senior leadership likely will come from Tyler Finke. He hit .394 last year to lead the Bull Dogs in batting average for the third consecutive season. He also led the Bull Dogs with 37 stolen bases and 33 runs and is only one of two returning starters on defense this season.
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Finke returns at shortstop, while sophomore and Evansville committ Grant Trinkle will start as an outfielder.
McDaniel said the strength of the team is in its pitching staff after returning nearly all of its pitchers from a year ago, including two Indiana University commits in junior Parker Maddox and sophomore Casper Clark. Maddox went 3-4 with a 3.57 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 53 innings last season, while Clark helped North to a 7-6 sectional win against Columbus East by closing out the final inning as a freshman.
Senior Jake Petrusky and junior Jakob Meyer also return with plenty of pitching experience.
“They’ve pitched a lot of innings in a lot of big games for us,” McDaniel said. “We’re excited about our pitching staff this year.”
McDaniel’s next concern is finding out who is going to keep the Bull Dogs in games behind their solid pitching staff, he said. The remaining roster outside of Finke, Trinkle and the pitchers will be new varsity players.
Leading the freshman class is Louisville commit Austin Bode. The starting catcher is expected to be one North’s top hitters this season.
Sophomore Adam Chapman will take one of the outfield positions, and Clark will be at first base when he’s not on the mound. The second base, third base and outfield positions are still up in the air.
Either Petrusky or freshmen Kyler McIntosh or Reese Harmon could take over at second. Senior Bryce Lollar, junior Devon Rodgers and Meyer all are candidates at third.
Maddox will spend some time in the outfield when he’s not pitching, and senior Nicholas Stevens is in the running for some outfield time also. Freshmen Blake Huffman, Hayden McDaniel and Harmon also are vying for outfield spots.
It will be a challenging regular season for this young team considering the schedule, but last year’s 17-13 regular-season record preceded North’s run to semistate. Ben McDaniel isn’t looking that far ahead. He just wants to grow with every game and be in the mix by the time the postseason rolls around.
March 27;at Avon;5:30 p.m.
March 31;Franklin (DH); 10:30 a.m.
April 3;East Central;6 p.m.
April 5;Bloomington North;6 p.m.
April 6;at Super Prep Invitational;TBA
April 7;at Super Prep Invitational;TBA
April 10;at Perry Meridian;6 p.m.
April 12;at Shelbyville;5:30 p.m.
April 13;Floyd Central;6 p.m.
April 14;at Terre Haute North;11 a.m.
April 17;at Franklin Central;5:30 p.m.
April 19;Jennings County;5:30 p.m.
April 20;at Carmel;6 p.m.
April 21;Roncalli;11 a.m.
April 24;at Southport;6 p.m.
April 26;at Seymour;5 p.m.
April 27;at Cathedral;5:30 p.m.
May 3;at Greenwood;5:30 p.m.
May 4;Columbus East;5:30 p.m.
May 9;Bloomington South;6 p.m.
May 10;at Hamilton Southeastern;6:30 p.m.
May 12;Terre Haute South;11 a.m.
May 14;Fishers;6 p.m.
May 18;at Lawrence Central;5:30 p.m.
May 19;at North Central Invitational;1 p.m.