Columbus East jumped from six wins in coach Jon Gratz’ first season to 10 last year, and the Olympians hope to make another big leap this baseball season.
With only one senior gone from last season’s 10-17 squad, East hopes to challenge in a loaded Hoosier Hills Conference.
“We’ve made some big strides each of the last few years,” Gratz said. “I think we have a chance to have a pretty good season this year.”
The Olympians return their top two pitchers in junior right-hander Peyton Gray and senior left-hander Brian Wichman.
Wichman, who has committed to play at Murray State, went 1-5 with a save and a 4.05 ERA and batted .316 in earning All-HHC honors, while Gray went 3-5 with two saves and a 2.70 ERA in making honorable mention All-HHC.
After that, Gratz hopes to get some production out of six other pitchers — seniors Dakota Glenn (3-2, 3.55) and Yates Burkhart, sophomores William Anderson and Cameron Curry, freshman Takahiro Yamada and junior Jordan Johnson.
“Early on, a lot of guys are going to get a chance on the mound, and we’ll kind of see who performs,” Gratz said.
Junior Christian Wichman (.274) returns for his third year starting behind the plate. Senior Cody Edwards (.310, 15 RBIs) will be a four-year starter at third.
Senior Ben Harpring (.293), who played second, short and center field last year, likely will be in left. Brian Wichman plays center when he isn’t pitching.
Burkhart (.276) and senior Jonathan James split time at first last season and are battling with the 6-foot-8 Anderson for the starting job there. Yamada or sophomore Sam Claycamp will be at second, and Gray or Claycamp will be at short. Curry and Johnson are battling in right.
“Pitching and our defense were our strengths last year, and I think they should be again this year,” Gratz said. “I think our hitting should be improved this year from what it’s been the last couple of years.”
East will be looking for its first sectional title since 1999.
“As a team, we want to try to make a statement in the tournament,” Gratz said. “We want to be playing our best baseball at the end of the season and go from there.”