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Local teams getting ready to play ball


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A young Hauser baseball team that took its lumps last season is eager to make a big improvement this spring.

The Jets went 7-19 with a team that included mostly freshmen and sophomores and no seniors. Everybody returns from that squad.

“We’re going to be a lot better than last year physically, maturity-wise, knowledge of the game,” Hauser coach Jerry Schoen said. “In all phases of the game, we’re going to be better than last year. Last year, we played better at the end of the season. This year, I expect us to pick up where we left off and continue to grow.”

Sophomores Jared Schoen, Will Rose and Nathan Branum were the Jets’ top three pitchers last year. Junior Rory Thayer will join them on the mound.

Thayer, who batted .291, with 11 RBIs and 12 stolen bases last season, also plays catcher and in the outfield. Senior Jared Compton (.301, 16 RBIs), who has committed to Franklin College, returns at first base.

Branum, who is recovering from basketball injury, and Rose plays second and shortstop when not pitching. Junior Isaiah Martin returns at third and can also play second or shortstop.

Senior Nick Lortz and junior Dalton McKinney are back in the outfield. Sophomores Aaron Fields, Colten Wieler and Jacob Hatton and freshman Eric McMullen are battling for the other outfield spot. McMullen can also play infield and pitch.

“The nice thing about our team is, a lot of these guys can fill different roles,” Jerry Schoen said. “We have a lot of versatile players that we’ve been working with the past couple of years to get to this point.”

Hauser opens the season Saturday with a doubleheader at Trinity Lutheran. The Jets play at Class 4A schools Columbus North and East Central and at 3A Greensburg before the end of April.

“Being such a young team, we struggled a lot early on last year,” Jerry Schoen said. “We play a lot of big schools early. Towards May and the beginning of the sectional, we should be a lot better than when we start.”

Columbus Christian

The Crusaders are entering their second year of varsity baseball after going 4-11 in their inaugural season, with all four wins coming against Providence Cristo Rey.

“It was a definite building block,” Columbus Christian coach Jamey Reed said. “We’re learning and hopefully getting better every practice.”

The Crusaders return three seniors and three freshmen who saw plenty of action last season. Senior Dalane Shaull played in the infield, as well as pitcher and catcher, and will likely be behind the plate this season when he isn’t pitching.

Senior Ian Gray is an infielder and pitcher, and senior Clayton Harvey returns in right field. Freshman Connor Graham did some pitching, while freshman Evan Reed at second base and freshman Logan Roth in the outfield played as eighth-graders.

Sophomore Payton Ingram, a transfer from Columbus East, will pitch and play in the infield. Other newcomers include junior Jacob Mee and sophomores Corbin Hofelich and Adriane Polley.

“Our biggest problem last year was pitching,” Reed said. “We had a lot of kids that had not played since T-ball, and some of them had never played. We were trying to find somebody that could throw strikes, and I think this year, we have four or five kids that can throw strikes, so we’ll hopefully be able to compete a lot better than we did last year.”

Jennings County

The Panthers return five starters from a team that went 16-11.

“We lost eight seniors, but my talent level is just as good, with the potential to be even better this year,” Jennings coach Gabe Lowman said. “But we’re going to be young.”

Junior Caleb Eder, who missed all of basketball season with a torn ACL, was the Panthers’ top hitter and pitcher last season. Eder, who plays short, third or first when he isn’t pitching, went 4-0 with a 3.35 ERA and led the team with a .398 average, two home runs and 22 RBIs.

Junior Sam Miller, who plays center when not pitching, went 1-0 with a 5.37 ERA and batted .363. Junior Lane Staples (.231) returns in the outfield and will also pitch this year. Senior outfielder Bradley Sullivan is also back.

Senior second baseman Sam Morris (.277, 18 RBIs) has a torn labrum and will likely be limited to DH duties until midway through the season.

“I have a pretty good junior class and a couple sophomores who will help us throughout the year and a freshman who will help us right away,” Lowman said.

That freshman, Tyler Vogel, could play first or third and be the No. 3 pitcher behind Eder and Miller. Junior Connor Byram will take over behind the plate. Sophomore Jacob Wingate or junior Isaiah Walker could play first; juniors Ethan Jarvis or Tod Brown could play second until Morris is fully healthy; and Vogel, Jarvis and Eder could play third.

“I think our actual batting lineup might change about 20 times this year,” Lowman said. “I have some kids who are really good defensively, but I don’t know how if they can hit varsity pitching. If they can, I feel real good about this team.”

Eder, Miller, Vogel, Wingate and Staples will pitch.

Brown County

The Eagles have a new coach in Kyle Heminger, who takes over for Gavin Steele following a 6-16 season.

Brown County has 33 kids out for the team, including 15 sophomores.

“We have a lot of young people out,” Heminger said. “Things are looking bright for Brown County baseball for the next few years.”

The Eagles have seven returning starters, including senior pitchers Chase Snider (2-2, 4.69 ERA) and Tyler Allison (1-4, 6.09 ERA). Sophomore Dakota Isley (.429), who can play first, right, pitcher and DH, was the team’s top hitter last season.

Junior Alex Walker (.319, 15 RBIs) returns behind the plate. Sophomore Tanner Hamm (.259) plays first and pitches; senior Tyler Marcoux (.167) plays second, short and outfield; and junior Garrett Brown plays center and pitches.

Seniors Luke Huls (outfield) and Devin Smith (pitcher, outfield, first) are back playing after sitting out last season.

“We’re going to be pretty versatile with pitching and the way we’re set up,” Heminger said.

South Decatur

The Cougars had a big year last season, going 14-7 and falling to Rising Sun in the sectional finals.

Four starters return from that team, led by senior Taylor Kopplin, who went 5-1 with a 1.20 ERA and batted .465 with a team-high 27 RBIs. Also back are senior catcher Austin Petro (.278), junior first baseman Damon Martin (.261) and sophomore outfielder Aaron Haley (.316, 12 RBIs), who will do some pitching this season. Kopplin plays short when he isn’t pitching.

“We have a lot of numbers, but it’s going to be a young year for us,” South Decatur coach Andy Seegers said. “Those younger guys are definitely going to have to step up and fill those spots.”

Sophomore Brendan Henderson and freshman Hunter Seegers will see some innings on the mound. Sophomore Tyler Bushhorn and freshman Oakley Billingsley could play short or second, and sophomore Baker Howard or senior Austin Ortman will be at third.

Hunter Seegers could play first or short. Senior Chris Johannigman, junior Luke Ryle and sophomores Jordan Ortman, Drew Taylor and Garrett Whitley are battling for outfield spots.

“I told the guys there’s only two spots full, and that’s the third-base coaches box and the first-base coaches box,” Andy Seegers said. “Everything else is wide open.”

Edinburgh

The Lancers face a rebuilding effort after losing most of their top players from an 8-8 squad.

Coach Cole Zook does have 29 players out for the team, including three returning full-time starters. Junior Kevin Johnson is the only returning pitcher with experience and also started in the outfield.

“We’ll be pretty young and inexperienced on the mound, but we have a lot of young guys who can throw strikes,” Zook said. “We’re going to have to have guys that can come in and throw a couple innings for us, but we have a lot of guys that any given night, we can put out on the mound. Defensively, we’ll be young, but we have a lot of athletes there, so I think defensively, we’ll be pretty solid.”

Junior Elliott Parmer in center and sophomore Kinser Bryant in the middle infield are the only other returning full-time starters.

Junior Eric Cravens was the backup catcher and played some infield. Junior Doug Scrogham in outfield, junior Blake Fisher in left and at designated hitter and sophomore Connor Goddard at first, third and DH all started a few games last season.

“With 29 guys, there’s going to be a lot of competition for those spots, so I’m anxious to see how my guys react.”

Trinity Lutheran

The Cougars went 12-15 last season, but won a sectional title. Seven starters are back from that team.

“We have a lot of experience returning,” Trinity coach Bob Tabeling said. “We have some good young players. Right now, we have a strong combination, as far as our team goes.”

Seniors Andrew Cain and Jared Stuckwisch and sophomore Jacob Schult bring plenty of pitching experience, and senior Jacob Stout also threw some innings last season. Senior Jacob Harless returns at catcher.

Junior Caleb Reedy is back at second. Schult plays first, Cain at short and Stuckwisch third when they aren’t pitching. Freshman Matt Fourman and Sam Crick could play third when Stuckwisch is pitching.

Sophomore Bobby Tabeling and Stout take over in center and right, with freshman Ross Kruse and senior Dillon DeVore backing them up. Senior Kris Hubbard, a transfer from Seymour, junior Spencer Newmister and DeVore are battling in left.

The Cougars have 11 freshman among the 21 players on the team.

“We have our highest numbers of players in the program that we’ve ever had, so we’re looking at getting some players some JV experience, as well as getting some of those younger kids some varsity experience,” Bob Tabeling said.

Seymour

Eight players who started some games, including four full-time starters, are back from an Owls team that went 15-12.

Sophomore Janzen Bloom, who won his only decision last year before he was injured, will be the No. 1 pitcher and play some first base. Senior second baseman Logan Richey (.283) and junior shortstop Mitchell Moore (.271) will also do some pitching this season. Senior John Rivera (.200) was the starting catcher until being injured.

Senior Peter Duncan started a few games at first. Senior Chase Dover, who started a couple of games in outfield, will play center. Senior Fabian Munoz started a couple games in outfield, and sophomore Ryan Wieneke started a couple at third and short.

Freshman move-in Satoshi Hirosi will play third and do some pitching. Senior Tyler Reedy will play left and pitch after missing last season following Tommy John surgery. Sophomore Keenan Bohall and junior Seth Stuckwisch are battling for the catching duties.

“We’re going to be a little young and inexperienced, but I think we’ll be all right,” Seymour coach Jeremy Richey said. “We’ll be senior and sophomore heavy.”

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