Spring previews: Area baseball team-by-team capsules

Posted: Mar. 17, 2013 12:31 am Updated: Apr. 7, 2013 1:15 am

Here is a team-by-team look at the area prep baseball scene:

Brown County

Coach: Jared Hoots (50-59 at Brown County, fifth season).

2012 Record: 9-18 (0-6, Western Illinois Valley North).

Returning starters: 2B/P Brad Long, Jr.; 3B/P Nathan Mekdara, Jr.; OF Micheal Scoggan, Soph.; OF Wilson Yinging, Sr.; OF/P Collin Clinging, Soph.; 1B/P Bayley Wiese, Soph.; INF Tim Woodard, Sr.

Other returning letterwinners: C Alec Boylen, Jr.; 1B Colt Garrett, Sr.

New faces: INF Triston Hobson, Soph.; OF/P Braxton Phelps, Jr.

Key losses: SS/P Alex Sheppard, C Ricky Logsdon, INF Clayton Taylor, OF Justin Volk, UT Derek Kitchell.

Outlook: Finding consistent pitching will be important for Brown County, especially with an offense that doesn't return a lot of punch.

Long, who hit .337 and drove in 24 RBIs, is Brown County's top returning contributor on offense. None of the other returning starters hit higher than .250.

Six different players will try to fill in for Sheppard, who earned five of the Hornets' nine wins last season and hit .411.

"Our key this year is how fast our young pitchers develop into varsity players," Hoots said. "I think we will have to take advantage of our speed on the bases and in the infield."



Coach: Clint Smith (0-0 at Canton, first season)

2012 record: 19-5

Returning starters: INF Justin Fellinger So.; OF Skyler Bronestine, Jr.; INF/P Collin Baker, Jr.; 1B Ben Logsdon, Jr.; C/INF Jonny Lee, Jr.; INF Tyler Niemann, Jr.; Austin Hoewing, Sr.; Brandon Berhorst , Jr.

Other returning letterwinners: None listed.

New Faces: INF/P Lucas Brown, Fr.; OF David McReynolds, Sr.; OF Cory Mertz, Sr.; Dakota Sherwood, Sr.

Key losses: 1B Nathan Lewis, UT Garrett Serbin, Aaron Ellwen

Outlook: After several seasons of coming close, Canton is ready to make a state run. The Tigers return seven starters from last season. Niemann, Berhorst and Hoewing were all selected as Class 1 all-state players last season.

Canton will bump up to Class 2 this season as Missouri baseball expands to five classes.

"We want to focus on our offense around our athleticism," Smith said. "We hope that can carry us on defense as well until we can get out on the field to practice."



Coach: Jordan Tenhouse (0-0 at Central, first season)

2012 record: 16-17 (as Central-Southeastern)

Returning starters: INF/P Seth Leezer, Sr.; INF/P John Aden, Jr.; INF/P Taylor Heimann, So.

Other returning letterwinners: OF Emery Gronewold, Sr.; INF/P Aaron DeRousse, Jr.

New faces: P/AB Jacob Eilers, Jr.; OF Mike Johnson, Jr.; OF Austin Kramberg, Jr.; C Zach Foote, So.

Key losses: C Jonah Coggeshall, OF/P Austin Dormire, INF/P Adam DeRousse, OF/P Garrett Kestner, DH Bryson Jibben.

Outlook: With the co-op with Southeastern ending, Central will only return three starters from last season. Tenhouse expects growing pains, but also plans to see growth.

"The Panthers are hoping to grown and develop with each game and find young players who are willing to step up and take a leadership role," Tenhouse said. "Inexperience can only be an excuse for a few games. The development and confidence will allow the Panthers to be playing their best baseball by May and the start of the postseason."

Leezer, Aden and Heimann will be counted on to handle the pitching responsibilities. DeRousse will also do some pitching, as he was 2-1 with a 3.50 ERA last season.



Coach: Derek Kurfman (20-15 at Griggsville-Perry, second season)

2012 record: 20-15

Returning starters: P/SS Dryden Craven, Sr.; IF Isaac Whitaker, Jr.; CF/P Matthew Kennedy, Sr.; 2B Wyatt Bradshaw, Sr.; DH/IF Alex Tedrow, Sr.

Other returning letterwinners: C Mitchell Main, Jr.; IF/C Kendall Hannant, Soph.; IF Skyler Dunham, Sr.

New faces: OF Skyler Miller, Soph.; P/IF Kaleb Bradshaw, Soph.; OF Jordan Dehart, Soph.; IF Joey Myers, Soph.

Key losses: C/P Brock Rumple, RF Ison Smith, Clayton Myers, 1B.

Outlook: Returning five starters may help the Tornadoes build on on last year's success. It will start with Craven, who was 7-3 last season with a 1.40 ERA. Whitaker (.345 batting average), Smith (.345) and Kennedy (.318) will give Griggsville-Perry punch in its lineup.

Miller, Bradshaw, Dehart and Myers will be counted on to step up.

"Offensively, this year will be stronger than last," Kurfman said. "The sophomores have looked impressive in the first couple weeks, and our returning players will be counted on to be more effective. I believe we have the pieces to make noise in the postseason."



Coach: Daryl Zessin (0-0 at Hannibal, first season)

2012 record: 10-9 (6-5, third in the North Central Missouri Conference)

Returning starters: OF Trever Anderson, Sr.; 1B Dalton Powell, Sr.; OF Justin Price, Sr.; INF/P Brandon Scott, Sr.; SS/P Jacob White, Sr.; 3B/P Eric Hugenberg, Jr.; C Jordan Wilson, Jr.

Other returning letterwinners: OF/C Trevor Hertlein, Soph.; 2B Austin Kirby, Soph.; Dalton Overstreet, Soph.

New faces: OF Austin Lewton, So.

Key losses: 2B Cody Mundle

Outlook: Bumping up to Class 5 will present a new challenge to a Hannibal team that returns seven starters from last season, including five seniors. Powell and Scott both were All-NCMC selections last season.

"The keys to a winning record will be staying healthy and generating more offense," Zessin said. "Our best players are all of our returning juniors and seniors. We didn't lose any pitchers from last year's team and that should be a strength coming into this season.



Coach: Jeff Oenning (0-0 at Highland, 15-34 third season overall)

2012 record: 2-16 (0-7, eighth in the Clarence Cannon Conference)

Returning starters: SS Greg Garner, Sr.; P/2B/3B Dakota Sparks, Sr.; OF/SS/C Jack Neisen, Jr.; 3B, P, SS Cody Wilkens, Jr.; 1B/3B/DH Garrett Gray, Jr.; OF/C Jonathan Boyer, Jr.

Other returning letterwinners: OF Aron Arnold, Jr.; IF Keegan Miles, Jr.

New faces: OF/P Chris Sparks, Jr.; C/1B/P Ryan Waterman, Jr.; IF Blake Carlin, Jr.; P/OF Shane Kurk, Soph.; If/P Dalton Sparks, Soph.

Key losses: OF/P J.T. Gray, C/P Austin Johnson, 3B/OF Kamron Roberts, 2B Stephen Jones, 1B/DH Tyler Olsen, 3B C.J. James.

Outlook: Highland had a plethora of players turn out to help turn the Cougars' program around.

"Our strength is also our weakness," Oenning said. "We don't have a true star player. We will put guys on the field who will play the game hard and stress fundamentals. Depth-wise, we have a lot of versatile players."

Neisen hit .308 last season and stole 12 bases, and Boyer hit .351 and drove in eight runs.


Illini West

Coach: Zack Huston (0-0 at Illini West, first season; 9-11 overall, second season)

2012 record: 18-16 (2-8, fourth place in the West Central North Conference)

Returning starters: SS/P Brody Gronewold, Sr.; 3B/C Kale Carlisle, Sr.; 1B Kaleb Spiekermeier, Sr.; 3B/C Braxton Squier, Jr.

Other returning letterwinners: C/3B Peyton Porter, Soph.; P/SS/OF Braden Bennett, Soph.

Key losses: P/OF Tanner Anderson, OF Jack Bastert, 2B/OF Nick Driskell, P/1B Evan McGaughey.

Outlook: Illini West overcame a 7-11 start last season to win its third Class 2A regional title in the past four years. Now, the challenge is to adjust to a change in the dugout.

Huston, who coached Carthage in 2006, replaces Todd Porter. He'll lean heavily on Gronewold, who hit .353 and stole 39 bases last season. Squier drove in 15 runs last season.

"The key to a good record will be limiting mistakes on defense and taking advantage of other team's mistakes," Huston said. "I believe we can be a difficult team to face come postseason."


Knox County

Coach: Michael O'Haver (3-14 at Knox County, second season; 67-60, ninth season overall).

2012 record: 3-14 (1-4, fifth place Tri-Rivers Conference).

Returning starters: P/C/IF Jared Barnard, Sr.; OF Colton Danger, Sr.; IF/P Royce Poore, Jr.; IF/P Donovan Edwards, Jr.; 3B/C Ryan Stranger, Soph.; C/P Cedric Boone, So.; 1B/P Joey McCauley, So.

Other returning letterwinners: 3B/OF Sam Minear, So.; 1B/OF Ethan Clay, Sr.

New faces: OF/P Lee Tague, Sr.

Key losses: OF Will Minear.

Outlook: Barnard and Edwards will both take the mound to try and help the Eagles reach the top of the Tri-Rivers Conference. McCauley showed flashes as a freshman at the plate, and Strange will contribute in the infield.

"Pitching will be our strength," O'Haver said. "Youth will be a weakness."



Coach: Dewey Hanzel (51-59 at Liberty, sixth season).

2012 record: 21-7

Returning starters: CF/P Koby Brown, Sr.; LF/P Issac Murfin, Sr.; 1B/P Tyler Ormond, Sr.; C/P Lane Hanzel, Sr.

Other returning letterwinners: SS/2B Eric Betts, Soph.; 2B Bayce Peters, Soph.

New faces: 3B Kyle Lynch, Soph.; 2B Austin Ormond, Fr.; OF/P Tayton Rose, Fr.

Key losses: SS/2B/3B Mark Rush, SS/P Jared Shover, RF Dakota Coutrell, 2B/CF Jordan Obeart.

Outlook: After a disappointing loss to Griggsville-Perry in the regional title game last season, the Eagles are motivated to make the next step.

"We have strong senior leadership this year," Dewey Hanzel said. "Starting pitching will be key. We have good young talent coming up."



Coach: Ryan Griffin (23-67 at Louisiana, sixth year)

2012 record: 12-10 (4-3 in the CCC)

Returning starters: P/OF Dylan Smith, Sr.; C/P/OF Brendan Ross, Sr.; INF/P Greg Pitzer, Sr.; INF Ryan Cashman, Sr.; P/INF Brandon Holland, Sr.; INF/P Dallas Castagna, Soph.; OF Dalton Channell, Sr.

Other returning letterwinners: INF Derek Keely.

New faces: INF Austin Baker, Jr.; INF/P Dustin Green, Jr.; INF/P Hank Calvin, Soph.

Key losses: C Bryson Kinkade, OF Logan Rue.

Outlook: Depth and having a senior-laden roster have Griffin believing this could be a big year for the Bulldogs. Of Louisiana's seven returning starters, six are seniors. Smith will lead the Bulldogs' pitching staff after going 6-0 with a 1.79 ERA last season, while Holland, who was 4-2 with a 1.17 ERA, will be a solid second option. Channell hit .403 last season, while Ross hit .379.

"Pitching, defense and timely hitting will be the keys to our success this season," Griffin said. "Smart baserunning and being aggressive will also lead us to success. ... We do have a deep bench and we are looking to make a historic preseason run."


Mark Twain

Coach: Ben Strother (15-25 at Mark Twain, third season)

2012 record: 5-16 (1-6, sixth in the CCC)

Returning starters: SS/P Dylan Thomure, Sr.; CF/P Logan Epperson, Sr.; C Ethan Anderson, Jr.; P/OF Cody Torrence, Sr.; 1B/P Douglas Camden, Jr.; 2B Corey Dodd, Sr.; IF/OF Paxton Hill, So.

Other returning letterwinners: OF Nash Simmons, Sr.; OF Nathan Wilson, Jr.

New faces: IF/OF Ethan Clark, Jr.

Key losses: 1B/P Tanner Woodhurst, IF/OF/P Austin Anderson.

Outlook: Tumbling below .500 in 2012 with an inexperienced team should lead to improvement in 2013, according Strother.

Thomure, who was named second-team All-Clarence Cannon Conference, hit .350 last season. Anderson brings experience behind the plate and a .325 average to the game.

"We transitioned into last year with a group of young, talented players who had yet to full find themselves at the varsity level," Strother said. "This year, that investment should be showing dividends in the win column. We are fielding five seniors this year, who have already proved themselves early on as the leadership the team will need this season.


Monroe City

Coach: Mike Crager (22-31 at Monroe City, fourth season)

2012 record: 10-11 (2-5, sixth place in the CCC)

Returning starters: OF/P Blake Rodgers, Sr.; SS/P Scott Hoover, Soph.; OF/P Grant Vollrath, Jr.; IF/P Kyle Fulton, Jr.

Other returning letterwinners: IF/P Terron Ritter, Soph.

New faces: IF Taylor Garner, Soph.; C Gage Shively, Soph.; OF Brad Walkers, Soph.; OF J.D. Brown, Soph.

Key losses: C Shane Williams, OF Josh Berry, OF/P Kyle Vannostrand, DH Tyler Gosney.

Outlook: The Panthers won't be able to sneak up on anybody this season. After Monroe City made a surprising run to a district title and lost in extra innings in the sectional, the Panthers return Fulton as their left-handed ace. He finished 5-2 as a starter last season, while Vollrath and four-year starter Rodgers will also be counted on to do some pitching. Hoover hit .279 last season.

"We fee like our strengths will be with our youth pitching that saw a lot of action last year again many good teams," Crager said. "We hope to build our pitching staff around a couple of players, juniors Kyle Fulton and fast-balling throwing Grant Vollrath."


North Shelby

Coach: Scott Gaines (40-48 at North Shelby, seventh season)

2012 record: 3-13 (0-5, sixth in Tri-Rivers Conference)

Returning starters: 3B Kendle Smith, Sr.; CF Lucas Daniel, Jr.; P/C John Arnett, Jr.; P/C Jacob Rich, So.; SS/2B Alan Trenhaile, So.; 1B Taylor Jackson, Jr.; 2B Dustin Miles, Sr.

Other returning letterwinners: OF Clay Kiser, Sr.; 1B/OF Houston Bichsel, Soph.; OF Jacob Gander, Soph.

New faces: P/OF Dylan Mettes, Fr.; 3B/OF Dalton Brumbaugh, Fr.; 2B/SS Drew Miles, Fr.; 1B/OF Phillip Stevens, Fr.; 2B/OF Dalton Mettes, Jr.

Key losses: P/SS John Stoneburner.

Outlook: North Shelby has been competitive in its practices. Only one spot -- centerfield -- has been decided. The Raiders have several freshmen, including Mettes, Brumbaugh, Miles and Stevens, who will be competing for spots this season. Rich is a base-stealing threat.

"Healthy competition will only make us better in the long run," Gaines said. "We must find a way to replace John Stoneburner's bat in the middle of the lineup. He carried us at times and someone is going to have to pick up the slack. Overall, I think we should be competitive in the conference and we should have a legitimate shot to compete in districts."



Coach: Mark Loman (143-67 at Palmyra, 11th season; 225-142 overall, 18th season)

2012 record: 13-10 (5-2, second place in CCC)

Returning starters: C Caleb Kizer, Jr.; P Will Funkenbusch, Sr.; SS Brock Butler, Jr.; P Josh Hultz, Jr.; 2B Layton Wilson, Sr.; DH Seth Brown, Jr.; OF Holden Hudson, So.; 1B Jordan Nutt, Jr.; OF Alex Bross, Jr.

Other returning letterwinners: OF Kevin Bross, Sr.; OF Cole Kizer, Jr.; IF Case Doyle, Jr.

New faces: None listed.

Key losses: P/OF Luke Powell, IF Jay Conoyer.

Outlook: The Panthers only have three seniors and return nine players that started games last season. Brown (.426 batting average), Bross (.381), Wilson (.370), Butler (.338), Hudson (.319) and Caleb Kizer (.313) all hit .300 or better. Hultz, who finished with a 4-2 record, and Funkenbusch, who was 3-5, will be counted on to lead the Panthers' rotation.

"We have a young, but experienced team returning from last year," Loman said. "The keys to a winning record will be defense and pitching. Our strengths should lie in our team unity and experience."


Payson Seymour

Coach: Michael Hamby (80-108 at Payson, ninth season as coach)

2012 record: 14-16 (5-6, fourth place in Pike County Conference)

Returning starters: 1B/P Tanner Stout, Jr.; SS Cody Hildebrand, IF/P, Jr.; 1B Ryan Hildebrand Sr.; 1B Scott Lentz, Jr.; IF/P Carter Epperson, Soph.; IF Daulton Speckhart, Sr.; OF/P Austin Coultas, Jr.; OF Brady Loos, Jr.

Other returning letterwinners: OF Gage Ruths, Sr.; OF J.B. Sohn, Soph.

New faces: OF Klayton Conrad, Fr.; OF Drew Burwinkel, Fr.; C Logan Hilgenbrink, Fr.; OF Joey Blickhan, Sr.; OF Jacob Farr, Sr.; OF Sammy Farr, Fr.; IF Trevor Maiers, Fr.; IF Brady Ash, Fr.; C Evan Brinkman, Fr.; IF Dustin Speckhart, Fr.

Key losses: IF/P Johnny Manion, Abram Wiseman.

Outlook: Healthy competition amongst the pitchers will carry Payson until its offense gets some more experience. Senior Ryan Hildebrand, along with Stout and Austin Coultas, will compete for the top spot in the rotation.

Speckhart, who hit .301 last season, is the Indians' leading returning hitter. Payson will also count on Cody Hildebrand, who hit .286, and Tanner Stout, who hit .273, to carry the offense.

"We have a lot of returning players from last year which will make us more experienced," Hamby said. "Hopefully, it leads to us doing the little things right. We have to put more runs on the board this year in order to allow our pitchers to pitch their game."



Coach: John Schultz (22nd season at Pittsfield)

2012 record: 14-21 (5-4, second place in Pike County Conference)

Returning starters: 2B Josh Dean, Sr.; OF/P Bradley Smith, Sr.; C/P Dylan Reel, Sr.; OF/P Mason Damon, Sr.; SS/P Ethan Borrowman, Sr.; 3B/P Brett Leahr, Jr.; OF/P Adam Church, Sr.

Other returning letterwinners: None listed.

New faces: IF William Slayden, Jr.; OF Andy Smith, Sr.; OF Austin Long, Jr.; C/OF/P Korbyn Cox, So.; OF/P Dalton Butler, Jr.; IF/P Jonah Meleski, So.; OF/P Austin Allen, Jr.; IF/P Quinn Leahy, Fr.

Key losses: OF/P Bradyn Cox, OF Ty Rylander.

Outlook: Borrowman (.384 batting average), Church (.357) and Damon (.315) lead a Pittsfield team John Schultz believes can get over the hump, provided it can focus on the task at hand.

"If our seniors can handle all the outside distractions off the field, being pulled this way and that as seniors are, we can be successful, and this season will be very fun, very quick," Schultz said. "We're not big physically. However, our seniors have two full years plus summers under their belt as starters. With this group, we feel we can run a bit."


Pleasant Hill

Coach: Ryan Lowe (0-0 at Pleasant Hill, first season)

2012 record: 5-19

Returning starters: 3B Aaron Rodhouse, Sr.; SS Alex Rodhouse, Jr.; 1B Boe Smith, Jr.; P Wyatt Williams, Jr.; C Kyle Moore, Jr.; OF Blake Decamp, Jr.

Other returning letterwiners: OF Gunner Turner, So.; 2B Ty Pruett, Soph.

New faces: OF Noah Smith, Fr.; OF Logan Smith, Fr.; OF Jordan Fiedler, Soph.

Key lossess: C/P Matt Gunterman, C/P Brett Cox, SS Seth Heller.

Outlook: With only 11 players on their preseason roster, the Wolves won't have a lot of depth. Wyatt Williams will be counted on to handle the top pitching spot for Pleasant Hill. Freshmen Noah Smith and Logan Smith will be expected to compete with Decamp and Turner for spots in the outfield.

"It may be a rebuilding year, but hopefully we can surprise some teams," Wolves coach Ryan Lowe said. "In order for us to be successful this season we will need quality starts from our pitchers and minimize mistakes."



Coach: Dave Swisegood (447-261 at Southeastern, 26th season; 940-562 overall, 57th season).

2012 record: 16-17 (as Central-Southeastern)

Returning starters: 1B Matthew Ramsey, Sr.; OF/P/C Shea Flesner, Soph.

Other returning letterwinners: None listed.

New faces: SS/P Alex Thompson, Sr.; C/P Winston Smith, Soph.; 1B/DH Brodie Eddinston, Fr.; P/3B Dallas Norman, Fr.; OF Austin Myers, So.; 2B Geoffrey Stout, Jr.; OF Ryan Slater, Sr.; DH Brett Widwell, Fr.; OF Brandon Carl, Soph.

Key losses: None listed.

Outlook: Dissolving its co-op with Central left Southeastern with only two returning varsity starters this season. Flesner, who pitched 22 1/3 innings last season, will be the Suns' most experience pitcher. Ramsey, who hit .278, is Southeastern's top returning hitter.

"Obviously, this is a rebuilding year with only one varsity pitcher back," Swisegood said. "Only two players, Winston Smith and Austin Myers, come off the junior varsity team from last year."


South Shelby

Coach: Mike Caldwell (14-4 at South Shelby, second season)

2012 record: 14-4 (5-2, tied for second place in CCC)

Returning starters: OF Wes Mefford, Sr.; OF Alex Blackford, Sr.; IF Wyatt Proper, Sr.; C Riley Schmitz, Sr.; OF Adam Ellyson, Jr.; IF David Heathman, Sr.; P Robbie Alee, Sr.

Other returning letterwinners: IF/P Christian Meeker, Sr.; C/P Adam Dodd, Sr.; IF Preston Wood, Sr.; OF/P Seth Scantlin, Sr.

New faces: None listed.

Key losses: IF Will Mefford, OF Danton Harvey.

Outlook: South Shelby has the necessary experience for a successful season.

The Cardinals have punch on offense with Proper (.441), West Mefford (.422) and Heathman (.306). Allen, who finished 8-1 last season, provides South Shelby with a top pitcher.

What the Cardinals need to do is find a way to limit mistakes, both on the mound and at the plate.

"Our entire pitching staff is back, but we must cut down on our walks to be successful," Caldwell said. "On the offensive side, we should be good, but will need to put the ball in play more this year. We have been really concentrating on cutting down our swings and focusing on getting on base."



Coach: Trevor Hull (19-54 at Unity, fourth season)

2012 record: 7-19

Returning starters: P/1B Thomas Donley, Sr.; P/C Kyle Kuhn, Jr.; INF Blake Whittler, Jr.

Other returning letterwinners: None.

New faces: INF Connor Miller, Sr.; OF Dylan Shaffer, Jr.; OF Zach Miller, Soph.; P Aspen Justice, Jr.

Key losses: P/OF Matthew Duesterhaus, P/OF Brett Jackson, OF Andrew Jansen, P/OF Brandon Kelsall.

Outlook: Unity will need to find quick replacements on defense, as it graduated its entire outfield from last season.

Shaffer and Miller will be in the mix for spots in the outfield. For Pitching, the Mustangs will turn to Donley, Kuhn and Justice.

"That's the key," Hull said. "We lack pitching depth and experience. We have six freshmen this season.


West Hancock

Coach: Lee Purchatzke (63-27 at West Hancock, fifth season; 155-180 overall, 19th season).

2012 record: 20-6

Returning starters: P/IF Austin Hardy, Sr.; P/OF Paxton Harmon, Sr.; P/IF Trevor Knipe, Jr.; P/IF Marcus Lonegenecker, SR.; P/IF Coy Dorothy, Sr.; OF Jordan White, Sr.

Other returning letterwinners: OF Arich Bosshardt, Sr.; P/IF Drew Beeler, Jr.; OF Jonathan Ferguson, Jr.; OF Devin Rings, Jr.

New faces: P/INF Andrew Hardy, So.; P/IF/C Cole Fox, So.; C Tucker Gibson, So.

Key losses: 1B Collin Dooley, C Kendall Summers, 2B Kody Knoche.

Outlook: The Titans have taken steps forward the last two seasons. Now, West Hancock needs to find a way to win a grab its first major goal, a regional title. The Titans have no shortage of pitching. Hardy, who finished 7-2 with a 2.02 ERA, and Harmon, who finished 7-1 with a 1.46 ERA, lead West Hancock's rotation. Harmon, who hit .384 last season and Hardy, who hit .363, will also be counted on to provide offense.

Knipe hit. 364 last season and will also do some pitching.

"The offense will need continued improvement from veterans like (Jordan) White and Dorothy," Purchatzke said. "Senior leadership will go a long way in determining whether or not the Titans can meet high expectations."



Coach: Travis Ruppel (0-0 at Western, first season).

2012 record: 3-24

Returning starters: P/SS Jake Walch, Sr.; P/SS Izack Hively, Jr.; C/1B Noah Lynch, So.; 1B/P Eric Rueb, Sr.; 2B/OF/P Josh Sally, Jr.; OF/P Evan Ehrhardt, So.

Other returning letterwinners: 2B/OF Mason McTucker, So.

New faces: 3B/Of Nekoda Gerding, Jr.; 3B/C/P J.J. Bryant Fr.; P/OF/C Donovan Schwanke, Fr.

Key losses: None listed.

Outlook: Western is focused on revamping, not rebuilding.

The Wildcats will return Walch, who had 53 strikeouts and hit .368, and Hively, who hit .559 and had a 2.07 ERA and 83 strikeouts, to give them experience on the mound and at the plate. Left-hander Ehrhardt will also be counted on to pitch.

"The team is working to turn around its defensive woes and gain more confidence in themselves as a whole," Ruppel said. "We feel this team has the talent to compete, but will need to establish pride in their abilities."


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