By Rob Kiser
Piqua American Legion Post 184 baseball coach Justin Jennings is excited about what this summer holds after Piqua went 26-11 a year ago and missed advancing to the state tournament by one run in an extra innings loss to Sidney Post 217 in the championship game.
“We have some good kids back,” Jennings said. “Off a team that was pretty good last year — and we have some new faces that I am really excited about.”
The pitching staff will be led by last year’s ace Seth Clayton (Tippecanoe) and Logan Harris (Piqua).
“Seth (Clayton) was our horse last year,” Jennings said. “It is great to have him and Logan (Harris) back on the mound.”
Also in the rotation are Austin Rutledge (Miami East), Jared Magoteaux (Lehman Catholic) and Riley Deitch (St. Henry).
“We are just talking about the starters there,” Jennings said. “We have a number of other guys in the mix. It will be interesting to see how that all comes together.”
They include Sawyer Smith (Piqua), Elliot Bruns (Versailles), Howie Ludwig (Houston) and Spencer Lavey (Piqua).
Behind the plate will be Ludwig — who spent most of his time at second base a year ago.
Other catchers will include Jake Trent (Houston) and Chase Humphries (West Liberty-Salem).
“We debated over the winter the best way to utilize Howie (Ludwig),” Jennings said. “I think anytime you have one of your best athletes behind the plate — he can control the game from there. It makes our battery a lot better.”
Will Eversole (Versailles) will make the move from third base to shortstop. Others who could see time in the infield include Zane Beougher (Piqua), Kaden Walker (Sidney), Dietch, Lavey, Rutledge, Magoteaux, Harris and Magoteaux.
“I think our infielders are going to be a lot like hockey players ,” Jennings said. “I think they already are. I think it is going to be interesting to see how they come together.”
The outfield is loaded with athletes, including Michael Ashcraft (Piqua), Cory Cotrell (Piqua), Mick Karn (Piqua), Lavey, Colton Schafer (Ada), Beougher and Cayden Whisman (West Liberty-Salem).
“We really have some great athletes out there,” Jennings said. “It will be interesting to see how this all comes together. I feel like we have a lot of versatility. We have speed, we have guys who can bunt, we have guys who can hit for power.”
Piqua will get the season started Saturday, in the Springfield Memorial Day tournament.
And with all the players on the team having their high school seasons over, most of the players should be available.
Piqua plays Greenville and the Columbus Braves Saturday, a Canada team and Springfield Armoloy Sunday, with the championship game set for noon on Monday.
“And we intend to be there,” Jennings said about the championship game.
Piqua will have its eyes on the state American Legion tournament again.
Competing with Piqua for that spot will be Sidney, Troy, Greenville and Van Wert.
“Hopefully, we can get to the state tournament this year,” Jennings said. “And maybe, even farther.”
Which is why this summer has Jennings so excited.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.