By Rob Kiser
Piqua American Legion Post 184 baseball coach Justin Jennings has learned one thing in three seasons as coach.
With the busy summer schedule you need pitching, pitching and more pitching.
And he feels like this year’s squad, currently at 15 players with a few to be added, has that in spades.
“We have learned some hard lessons the last couple years,” Jennings said. “There have been times when we have thrown just about everyone, but we have run out of pitching too soon.”
He doesn’t expect that to be an issue this summer.
Four key guys at the top of the rotation are Blake Wright (Piqua), Seth Clayton (Tippecanoe), Josh Osterholt (St. Henry) and Travis Smith (Piqua).
“We expect Blake (Wright) and Seth (Clayton) are going to be real strong pitchers for us,” Jennings said. Josh (Osterholt) is another real solid pitcher. We feel like the best way to use Travis (Smith) is to come in and protect a lead. That is where he is most effective.”
Others who will see time on the mound include Spencer Lavey, Logan Harris, Dakota Iddings and Michael Ashcraft, Piqua; Nate LeFeld, St. Henry; Larkin Painter, Bradford; Howie Ludwig, Houston; and Dylan Arnold, Lehman Catholic.
Rounding out the roster are catcher Joe McGillvary, Troy; outfielder/second baseman Matt McGillvary, Troy; and utility infielder Will Eversole, Versailles.
“You need to give yourselves options (on the mound),” Jennings said. “And we have options. Logan (Harris) is going to play first base, but he can pitch. We have a lot of guys who can pitch.”
Joe McGillvary is back at the catcher spot and 100 percent after playing last summer with a bad shoulder.
“I feel really good about having Joe (McGillvary) back there,” Jennings said. “This is the first time he has been healthy playing for me and he is a cleanup hitter. Either Howie Ludwig or Travis Smith will be the backup catcher. They both can do it equally well.”
With some high school standouts like Ludwig, Smith and Arnold in the infield, Jennings has no concerns in that area.
“Dylan (Arnold) is real solid at third base and can play shortstop,” Jennings said. “Travis is really good at shortstop and Howie Ludwig is really strong. We feel very good about the infield.”
Jennings feels the same about the outfield.
“Matt (McGillvary) and Osty (Josh Osterholt) can just fly out there,” Jennings said. “Dakota (Iddings) had a big spring. I have known Dakota was a player the last two years and it is great when someone sees what he can do and gives him a chance. He is battling for one of the outfield spots.”
Post 184 opens the season with the Wittenberg tournament, playing Greenville in the first game Saturday morning.
“It is a really good tournament,” Jennings said. “We have five games in three days. Then, we have two games with Hillsboro and two games with Troy in a week. We are definitely going to learn a lot about this team quickly.”
Jennings expects the district tournament and battle to get to Legion state tournament to be as tough as ever.
“We know what Sidney has and they are going to be tough,” he said. “Troy is always going to be strong. Greenville beat us last year, so I think we feel like we have something to prove there.”
And Jennings expects good things from this team.
“We may have been a little overconfident in the past,” Jennings said. “So, we are staying humble. I feel like we have some real good players.”
And more importantly, the pitching to handle a Legion schedule.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.