PREBLE COUNTY — County baseball teams will be looking to improve their records from a year ago as the season is set to get under way this week.
Coach: Tyler Luce (first season)
The Blazers are coming off a season in which they went 7-14 overall and 4-8 in the Cross County Conference, but only graduated two players from the team.
The team is made up of four seniors, four juniors, a sophomore and two freshmen.
Team members include: Angel Garabito (senior) OF; Jacob Heck (senior) OF; Payton Miller (senior) OF, P; Andrew Willett (senior) IF; Travis Hunt (junior) OF, IF, C, P; Hunter Lee (junior) IF, P; Hunter Michael (junior) IF, P; Hunter Lindsey (junior) C, IF; Peyton Lane (sophomore) IF, P; Cam Harrison (freshman) IF, P; Cody Webb (freshman) IF, P.
Spliting time between varsity and junior varsity will be Cole Yount (junior) OF, P; Joe Law (sophomore) OF, IF, P; Kenny Moore (sophomore) P, OF; Austin Knapp (sophomore) C; Colten Everman (sophomore) IF, OF, P.
Coach: Justin Tucker
Number of seasons as varsity head coach at your current school? 4th
Number of seasons as a varsity head coach overall and career record? 4th season, 56-29
Last season’s record (overall and league)? 19-10 (11-1, CCC champions)
How deep into the tournament did your team advance last year? Regional semifinal
Starters returning, positions and grade:
Chandler Sproles (P, 1b/senior) will be a four-year letter winner, named to Prep Baseball Reports’ Preseason All-State team.
Collin Whipp (SS, P/junior) will move to SS after the departure of Zach Edgin, will also be a key arm for us this year.
Liam Downing (C/junior) returns for his third year behind the dish, continues to add to the long legacy of catchers at TCN.
Casey Whipp (CF/junior) will be the everyday CF, plus defensive player with a solid bat.
Phillip Lockwood (LF, P/junior) will move from RF to LF this year, will also be a good arm for us during the season.
Wyatt Hutchins (INF, P, C/junior) will provide a power bat that will play the corners and is an good arm for us.
Other key players returning, positions and grade:
Clayton Finney (INF, P/junior) will move into a starting role this year at one of the corners, will also eat up some innings for us.
Jacob Isaacs (INF/senior) will play all over the infield this year for us, a valuable asset as a utility guy for us.
Chayse Eby (INF, P/junior) is a solid defender that will find time up the middle of our infield.
Newcomers, with possible positions and grade:
Dylan Curtin, (OF, P/junior) will fight for a starting spot in our OF, will also find the mound on the weekends.
Matthew O’dell (P, Utility/sophomore) will be a key guy in our rotation during non league games.
Copper Cole (P, OF/freshman) will look to gain varsity experience early, he will be on the mound and in the OF this year.
Thoughts and expectations about your respective league/conference and your chances?
I believe the CCC is going to be a very close race this year. Newton and Miami East return their core group of players.
With the league being a true round robin format, anything can happen on a give day. The best team never wins, it’s the team that plays the best.
Thoughts and expectations for the upcoming sea(sophomore)n overall:
This season will come down to the success of the junior class, many have a year or more of varsity experience and will have to fill the roles lost by graduation. We know we will get consistent production from our two seniors Chandler Sproles and Jacob Isaacs. Pitching, defense, and timely hitting will be the three keys to each game. We do those things well day in and day out we will be able to compete with anyone we play. There are always high expectations here at North, making back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances along with two conference titles in the last four years has been great. It also doesn’t get us anything but everyones best year in and year out. We look forward to that challenge and look to make another run in 2018.
Twin Valley South
Co-coaches: John Bassler and Cory Bassler
This is the sixth season for both at Twin Valley South and sixth season overall in careers.
Last season we were 7-14 overall and 6-6 in the CCC. We lost in the second round, sectional semifinals against Middletown Christian, 1-0.
Ryan Bassler (senior, shortstop/pitcher) — third-year starter. Was first Team All-CCC in 2017 and 2nd Team All-CCC as a sophomore in 2016. Led team in hits, doubles, and RBIs last season.
Travis Lovely (senior, third base/shortstop/pitcher) — third-year starter. Second on team in hits, doubles, and RBIs last season.
Ryan Johnson (senior, outfielder/pitcher) — third-year starter. Was 2nd Team All-CCC in 2017. Led team in batting average and runs last season.
Bryant Marker (senior, outfielder) — third-year starter.
Hunter Bennett (senior, catcher) — second-year starter.
Buddy Henderson (junior, outfielder/pitcher) — second-year starter, led team in stolen bases last season.
Josh Wysong (junior, third base/pitcher) — second-year starter.
Cade Cottingim (junior, first/second base) — second-year starter, led team in walks and was second in runs scored in 2017.
Jayden Bassler (junior, second base/outfield/pitcher)
Branden Perry (sophomore, first base/catcher/pitcher)
Chase Denlinger (junior, first base/outfield)
Thoughts on conference: I expect some of the stronger teams of late to continue to be tough. It also seemed like quite a few teams were really young last year, so it will be interesting to see how much each team has developed from last season. I think a few teams could potentially surprise (sophomore)me people and I expect it to be a competitive year in the conference.
Thoughts and expectations: I think we have the chance to be a really competitive team. We have to find a way to hold our own on the mound and give our defense a chance to make plays and limit opponents. We return basically our entire defense, so I look forward to building off of last year and improving in all areas of the game, while also accepting the challenge of replacing our top pitcher from last year. If we can find that guy or two to step up and fill that void, we can be a very dangerous team.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH