By all accounts, it was a banner year for Columbus North baseball.
The Bull Dogs went 24-3, including a perfect 7-0 in Conference Indiana. They finished the season ranked No. 7 in Class 4A by the Indiana Baseball Coaches Association and No. 4 in all classes by Prep Baseball Report.
But there was one thing missing — a sectional title. North fell to host Bloomington North in the sectional finals.
“My kids are so driven by that heartbreaking sectional championship game,” North coach Brian Muckerheide said. “We definitely don’t like looking at the past, but that’s something that’s been an intrinsic motivation for us. We have been driven to win that sectional title and bring it back to the city of Columbus.”
The Bull Dogs are ranked No. 16 in Prep Baseball Report’s preseason poll. Senior left-hander Daniel Ayers is rated the No. 2 overall Indiana prospect and No. 9 in Midwest by Prep Baseball Report.
Ayers, who has committed to Western Michigan, went 6-0 with a 1.33 ERA and 120 strikeouts in earning honorable-mention all-state honors. He is a preseason all-state selection this season.
“We should have (major- league) scouts there at almost every game that he pitches,” Muckerheide said. “Some of the scouts have already given me a heads up that it will be crazy. It will be an electric atmosphere.”
Beyond Ayers, there is a big dropoff in pitching experience. Junior right-handers Dylan Cowan and Christian Glass figure to get plenty of innings.
“Hopefully, we can find some other guys to fill in that role,” Muckerheide said.
Sophomore Devin Mann, who started in left field in a freshman last year, moves to shortstop. Mann batted .418 with 16 RBIs in earning first-team All-Conference honorees and is being heavily recruited by Division I programs.
Senior second baseman and Coledon Hoeltke hit .343 from the leadoff spot and was an honorable mention All-Conference pick. Hoeltke helped Team Indiana to Crossroads Showcase title last summer.
Senior center fielder Dennis Brumfield, missed most of last season with a shoulder injury before returning and hitting .429 in 21 at bats. He is looking at Manchester and Ball State.
“We are very fortunate and really happy to get Dennis back,” Muckerheide said.
Senior Nick Wingate, who has committed to Manchester, batted .381 and will move from center to left. Sophomores Evan Finke (.313) and Cody Burton (.333) are interchangeable as catchers and third basemen.
“They’re both versatile enough, and they’ve both accepted that role,” Muckerheide said.
Senior Andrew Golinvaux is set to take over at first, but is battling an elbow injury. If he can’t go, freshman Bryce McDaniel will step in.
Juniors Glass, Will Dorenbusch and Braden Phelps and freshman Collin Lollar are battling in right field.
“We have a lot of kids that are going to fill right in,” Muckerheide said. “Just like I told my kids, now we have the program where it’s ‘reload’ instead of ‘rebuild.’ We’re excited, and we’re looking to hit it again.”
Not only will North by looking for its first sectional title since 1995, it will try to defend its conference title.
“We want to make sure that trophy stays in our trophy cases and nobody else’s,” Muckerheide said.