by Beau Wicker
Logansport’s baseball team has strength in numbers when it comes to starting pitching.
Veteran Logan coach Jim Turner said the Berries have seven pitchers he feels he can rely on entering the season. The Berries open today at home against Twin Lakes.
“We have some nice arms. We have a little deeper pitching staff than we have been,” Turner said.
Left-hander Clayton Frye (6-6, 2.22 ERA) was the Berries’ ace last season, and he returns for his junior year.
Other pitchers who saw varsity time a year ago include Dustin Clements (2-2, 4.14 ERA), Connor Looker (4-2, 2.83 ERA) and Cody Graf (4-1, 2.47 ERA). Zach Shilts saw limited varsity time a year ago. Newcomers include Travis Palmer and Kyle Jordan.
The Berries will hope for improved offensive production from last year’s team that went 17-12 and was no-hit by McCutcheon’s Justin Curry in a 4-0 loss in a sectional game. They’ll be relying on some players that were part of successful JV squads over the last two years.
“We think we’ve got across the board a pretty even team,” Turner said. “The guys we’re carrying, we’ve got a lot of parts that can play. We got some lively bats and good team speed overall.”
Frye (.333, 19 RBIs) and Cory Rozzi (.300, 18 RBIs) are two of the team’s leading returning hitters. Frye plays first base when he’s not pitching, and Rozzi could see time at third, short and second this season, according to Turner.
Jordan and Clements both play shortstop, and Clements might also see time at second. Luke Vernon will see time at first. Cooper Kinnaman (2B) and Jacob Shelton (3B) are also in the mix in the infield.
Chris Jones will see time behind the plate, as will Austin Gaby and Tommy Corcoran, who’s also an outfielder.
Nito Luna and Palmer are also in the mix for outfield spots, as are Marcus Record, Zach Key, Looker and Brad Nies.
Veteran Cass coach Greg Marschand said the cold weather thus far this spring has not got his team down.
“This is the coldest spring we’ve ever had,” he said. “We’ve gone out there every day in sock hats.
“As far as mental toughness goes, our guys rank toward the top. They never gripe, never complain. They just roll up their sleeves.”
The Kings have quite a bit back from last year’s team that went 19-8 and shared the Mid-Indiana Conference title with Hamilton Heights, ahead of eventual Class 3A state champion Western. The Kings were defeated in the sectional final by eventual Class 2A state champion Northfield, which has Indiana State-bound Ryan Keaffaber back for his senior season.
“We’ve got some guys that have a lot invested in baseball and are prepared to have a great year,” Marschand said.
Reigning Loganland Player of the Year Zach McCoy (.438, 29 RBIs) will move from second base to shortstop this season. Austin Clem returns at first base.
Jake Wilburn (4-2, 3.04 ERA) picked up four conference wins a year ago on the mound. Marschand said he will be a key utility player as well as a pitcher.
Conner Adams (2-2, 0.12 ERA) also returns on the mound for the Kings, who lost their top two pitchers from a year ago to graduation in Andrew Daggett and Keegen Key.
Brandon Carden and Noah Byers will both see time behind the plate. Jake Miller (2B) and Ty Stover (3B) will see time in the infield, as will utility man Ryan Bixler.
R.J. Phillips, Blake Cain and Garrett Pullen will see time in the outfield. Cain will see time on the mound, as will Jake Gremelspacher, Josh Rankert, John Hartley and Dakota Hammond.
“We had 52 guys signed up to play baseball,” Marschand said. “We’ve still got 50. We’ve got a humongous JV and big varsity pulling together, and it’ll be fun to see what we can piece together.”
The Comets have three starting pitchers back from last year’s team that went 20-11 and broke through with the school’s first sectional championship in baseball.
“I think we can match what we did last year if we work hard and play hard,” Caston coach Blake Mollenkopf said. “Each year is a new year. We’ve got different strengths to work on.”
Corey Moss (8-1, 3.36 ERA) was the Comets’ ace last year and returns for his senior season. Caleb Rowe (2-3, 5.44 ERA) and Caleb Baldwin (2-0, 3.60 ERA) also return with varsity experience on the mound.
Baldwin hit .406 with 41 RBIs to lead the Comets at the plate a year ago. He’ll play at first when not pitching. Moss also catches. Rowe plays second base. Jake Kingery moves to shortstop, and Jake Howdeshell is the third baseman. Jeremy Gonzalez returns in center field. John Martin will be the left fielder, with Alex Howdeshell and Brayton MacClain both set to see time in right. Chandler DeBarge will DH and play first, and Trey Young, Derek Klimes, Brayton Jellison and Nate Callender also in the mix for varsity time.
The Warriors won 13 games a year ago in the 15th and final season with Mark Hendryx at the helm. Hendryx stepped down at the end of last season to spend more time with his family.
The new coach is Tony Carroll, who’s from Manchester and coached JV ball for six years there. He’s been in Winamac the last nine years and played college baseball at Central Michigan.
“I’m excited about it,” Carroll said. “I’ve had to knock a little rust off, I guess. I’ve learned some things and had some refreshers on coaching. Things are going to come for as we move along. I think I’ve expected too much, too quickly out of the team. Improve from game to game is what I want to see.”
The Warriors have just 15 boys out for the team this year and will not have a JV team. Five of the 15 are freshmen.
Zach Shidler hit .401 a year ago and is the team’s leading returnee at shortstop and pitcher.
Levi Schultz is the starting catcher. Kameron Cooper, a transfer from Pioneer, will play third. Maverick Schultz will play second, and Jeremy Bentle will play first. J.T. Garnett is a utility player on the infield. Brandon Dickson is the team’s starting center fielder.