Bull Dogs have new coach, several new varsity players

After one year with Pat Antone at the helm, Columbus North baseball has another new head coach this season.

Former Bull Dog player and assistant coach Mike Bodart takes the reins of the program following an 18-7-2 season that ended with an upset loss to East Central in the first round of the sectional.

“The excitement is good because numbers are high,” Bodart said. “We did our offseason workouts since August, so we’ve had the same group of guys in two days a week for two hours. So there weren’t any surprises come tryouts. We have guys that want to compete, and we have competition going on.”

North lost top pitchers Will Baker and Zach Wager to college programs, but return an experienced hurler in senior Luke Harmon.

“Luke is by far our No. 1,” Bodart said. “Everybody else threw very minimal innings, so game experience is somewhat limited.”

Columbus North’s Zach McLean fires a pitch to the plate against Decatur Central Friday April 8, 2022, at Southside Elementary School.

The Republic file photo

Juniors Zach McLean also did some pitching last season. Juniors Connor Hensley, Blake Osbourne, Dillon James and Ryan Rayburn and sophomore Joey Fry could see action on the mound this year.

“We have a lot of depth in pitching, and everybody’s arm is fresh since Baker and Wager and Harmon ate up most of the innings last year,” Bodart said. “We have a lot of fresh arms and guys eager to prove what they can do on the mound since they didn’t get a lot of chances last year.”

Senior Trenton McCain returns behind the plate. McLean, who plays first base when he isn’t pitching, led the Bull Dogs with a .338 battling average, nine doubles, three home runs and 22 RBIs last season. Rayburn likely will play first when McLean is pitching.

A combination of Harmon, James, Hensley and Fry will play second, shortstop and third, depending on who is pitching.

“We have a lot of options there,” Bodart said.

Senior Tyler Blythe moves from right field to center. Osbourne takes over in left field, and senior Kyler Hashman will be in right.

“We have really good defense, and we have a whole lot of versatility,” Bodart said. “We’ve been talking about that since August — being versatile and being able to move around. They have an open mind about that, so that’s been good.”

Two sophomores — Jayce Emmitt and Lane Schrader – also could do some pitching this spring.

“Talent wise, we have some returning guys that got a lot of playing time and at bats,” Bodart said. “We’re full of excitement and ready to get after it. The guys are working hard and having fun, so that’s a good combination.”

North opens its season April 3 at Roncalli, the school where Antone now coaches. The Bull Dogs will look to win the Conference Indiana title after sharing it with Bloomington South last year.

“We have some lofty goals, and we’re going to see what we can do,” Bodart said. “Obviously, we want to make a big push for being conference champions. They have a little sour taste with last year with the tie. We want to win conference, and we think we’re capable of winning sectional and making a little run.”

That sectional will look a little different than in years’ past. Bloomington North and Bloomington South have been replaced by Franklin and Whiteland in the sectional, which will take place at East Central.

“I would say it’s wide open,” Bodart said. “It all just depends on how it all comes together at the end of May.”

The 2023 Columbus North baseball schedule:

April 3;at Roncalli;6 p.m.

April 4;at East Central;6 p.m.

April 6;at Bloomington North;6 p.m.

April 7;at Decatur Central;5:30 p.m.

April 8;Jeffersonville (DH);Noon

April 10;Center Grove;5 p.m.

April 15;Silver Creek (DH);11 a.m.

April 18;Franklin Central;5:30 p.m.

April 21;Floyd Central;5:30 p.m.

April 22;Noblesville;12:30 p.m.

April 25;Southport;6 p.m.

April 27;at Seymour;6 p.m.

April 28;Cathedral;5:30 p.m.

April 29;Terre Haute North;11 a.m.

May 1;Shelbyville;5:30 p.m.

May 4;Greenwood;5:30 p.m.

May 5;at Columbus East;6 p.m.

May 9;Westfield;6:30 p.m.

May 10;at Bloomington South;6 p.m.

May 13;at Terre Haute South;11 a.m.

May 15;at Fishers;6 p.m.

May 17;at Hamilton Southeastern;5:30 p.m.

May 19;at Carmel Greyhound Invitational;TBA

May 20;at Carmel Greyhound Invitational;9 a.m.