The Van-Far Indians baseball team will have a different look this season without all-state graduate Adrian Davis and graduates A.J. Hopke, Cody Gilley, and Mike Muellerleile. Though several young players will have to fill key positions for this year’s Indians, head coach Wes Rowden says their work ethic might help Van-Far improve on its 4-14 record from a year ago.
“I’m really pleased with what I’ve seen so far,” he said. “We’re working harder than any other team I’ve worked. We are running more and doing more stuff than before. They’re enthusiastic so far.”
Rowden said he expects his squad to compete with many of the tough teams in the EMO Conference.
“We play in a tough conference; I just want us to compete,” he added. “If we can compete and be there at the end of the game, we’ll let the chips fall where they may. We want to be there at the end of the game to have a chance to win.”
Returners to this year’s squad includes seniors Andrew Stewart (P), Ryan Teague (P/Util.) and juniors Ethan Gooch (SS/2B), Brian Kurz (P/1B), and Ryan Nelson (RF/P).
Others expecting to battle for time in the lineup include Ryan Decker (Util.), Ben Darling (IF), Enrique Caceres (Util.), Logan Boyd (C), Kyle Decker (3B), Trey Hull (SS/OF), Brett Hubert (2B/OF), softball player Melani Hamlett (IF), Lucas Robinson (P/IF), Nathan Kraft (Util.), and Tyler Kemry (C).
“Generally speaking I have an idea where everybody is going to play but not this year,” Rowden said. “I know pitchers, catchers, and right field but that’s about it.”
Rowden said a big key to his team’s success this year is his pitchers’ need to find the strike zone consistently.
“I expect strikes; they’ve got to throw strikes,” Rowden said. “You can’t walk people…”
Defensively, Rowden said his infield is pretty strong.
“I think I have more depth on the infield than I think I’ve ever had,” he said.
Rowden said Boyd will be the starting catcher.
“He’s going to get dirty and I look for him to solidify that position for us,” Rowden said.
Offensively, Rowden said his team will likely not be putting a lot of balls over the fence for home runs.
“We’re more of a doubles club,” he said. “We’re going to bunt more than we’ve ever bunted and steal more bases than we’ve ever stolen. Boyd, Gooch, Hull, and even Ryan Teague; there’s some pretty good speed here…We’ll probably play more small ball…We’ll put the ball in play and make the defense get us out.”
Van-Far opens their season on Tuesday, March 20 at 5 p.m. against North Callaway in Farber.