With five returning starters and nine returners with experience, the Community R-VI Trojans’ baseball team is hoping a mix of players will help them be successful during the 2017 Spring season.
While the team lost all of its pitchers a year ago, this year’s team battles the loss of key players in a lineup that made up 80-85% of RBIs and runs scored in 2016.
“Being so young, having to rebuild a lineup a little bit, what I’m looking for is improvements,” said Community R-VI head coach Brandon Talbot of his team with 14 players. “Hopefully the guys from last year can tow the load. I’m not expecting us to win conference. One thing I want to be able to do is come district time, I want us to be that danger team.”
Some key returners from last year’s squad includes senior Avery Carline (DH/OF), Cordell Hollensteiner (SS/CF/P), Matt Gastler (P/3B), Evan Hartsock (3B/IF/OF), and Levi Rafferty (1B/C).
Key newcomers include last year’s Outstanding JV Player award-winner Hunter Houghton (P/2B) and multi-sport athlete Eric Hombs.
The pitching staff will be led by Matt Gastler, who pitched 70% of the team’s innings last year.
“We look for him to be our force on the mound,” Talbot said. “…Matt’s a pretty good pitcher. Any time he’s on the mound, he usually gives us a chance to win.”
One of the major challenges for pitchers this year includes the new limits on pitch counts.
If a pitcher tosses more than 75 pitches in a game, they have to rest four days before they can pitch again. Pitchers must also be pulled after no more than 105 pitches.
If the move was in effect last year, Matt Gastler, who tossed a 117-pitch gem to help the Trojans upset No. 1 seed Marion County in districts, would have been pulled in the fifth inning. He finished that game by getting six outs on just 11 pitches in the final two innings.
Offensively, a young lineup will need to find a way to score needed runs to support the starting pitching.
Defensively, the Trojans struggled last year.
“Our goal is to not give up big innings, the multi-run innings,” Talbot said.
“If we can keep the game close, I think we give ourselves a better chance to win.With the new pitch count rule, defense will be a key to winning.”
Talbot said he will be using the defensive shift a little more this year to put the pressure on the batter.