Columbus East baseball coach Jon Gratz found out a little bit about the focus of his team when the school was on spring break two weeks ago.
All 41 players who had tried out for the team stayed in Columbus to practice with the Olympians, 34 of which made the cut. Gratz hopes that translates into a big season.
“We have a pretty dedicated group,” Gratz said.
East went 18-11 last year. Four starters are back from that squad, led by senior pitcher-shortstop Peyton Gray, who has signed to play at Western Michigan, and senior catcher Christian Wichman.
Gray went 3-6 with a 1.31 ERA and batted .211 with three home runs and 11 RBIs. Wichman led the Olympians at the plate with a .371 average, 13 doubles, four homers and 22 RBIs.
“We have a chance to be pretty good,” Gratz said. “We have a small, but talented senior class and a deep junior class. We have a lot of experience coming back.”
William Anderson, a 6-foot-8 junior, has a couple Division I offers after going 2-1 with a 2.30 ERA. Also back with mound experience are junior Cam Curry (0-0, 3.18 ERA) and sophomore Takahiro Yamada (0-0, 7.00 ERA).
Junior Connor Roberts will take over at first. Yamada and Gray play second and short when they aren’t pitching. Junior Sam Claycamp, who played some short and second last year, will be at third.
Sophomore Kyle Weiss and Curry, who batted .371 with 12 RBIs, will be in center field. Anderson could be in either left or right field when he isn’t pitching.
Sophomore Nick Andrie could play second or short when Gray or Yamada are pitching. Junior Brock Greiwe will back up Wichman behind the plate, and senior Alex Hasson could play outfield or designated hitter. Junior Nick Beamish could play anywhere, including pitcher.
“I think we ought to have a pretty good year at the plate this year,” Gratz said. “We have some very good hitters coming back this year. Defense, we have some guys playing some new spots, but once we get going, we should be pretty solid in all three facets.”
Juniors Garrett Thrasher and Ethan Murphy, Roberts and Claycamp could also pitch for the Olympians.
“We’ll be tested early,” Gratz said. “We have nine games in eight days to start the season, so we’ll find out how deep we are. I think we’re deep, but we’ll find out.”
East will be looking for its first sectional championship since 1999.
“That’s always a goal,” Gratz said. “Obviously, we want to do well in our (Hoosier Hills) conference tournament. We try to take everything one game at a time.”