Hard work, effort will define Piqua this season


Mike Ullery | Miami Valley Today file photo Piqua’s Zack Lavey puts down a bunt last season. Lavey returns for the Indians this season.

Mike Ullery | Miami Valley Today file photo Piqua’s Zack Lavey puts down a bunt last season. Lavey returns for the Indians this season.


Mike Ullery | Miami Valley Today file photo Lehman Catholic catcher RJ Bertini is back this season. Bertini makes a tag during a game last season.


Lee Woolery | Miami Valley Today file photo Kenton Egbert returns to help anchor the Tippecanoe pitching staff this season.


Miami Valley Today file photo Charlie Walker is back for his fourth year in the starting lineup at Newton.


Staff Reports

PIQUA — Brad Lavey returns as the Piqua baseball coach.

The Indians were 11-17 overall last year and 6-9 in Greater Western Ohio Conference American play.

Graduating off that team were Derek Hite, Spencer Lavey, Austin Davis, Cory Cotrell, Jan Adorno, Michael Ashcraft and Seth Trapp.

Returning letterwinners are Zane Beougher, Owen Toopes, Blane Ouhl, Cameron Deal, Dylan Motter, Iverson Ventura, Mick Karn, Ethan Pohlschneider and Zack Lavey.

“Piqua baseball expects to bring a tough, hard-nosed team to every contest that will compete on every pitch,” Lavey said. “We can not predict where we will finish, but our players know that the work and effort they into every game and practice will have a direct reflection of how they will finish.”

• Tippecanoe

TIPP CITY — The faces change, but the expectations never seem to at Tippecanoe, which has been one of the most successful programs in the area under head coach Bruce Cahill, who is back for his 36th season.

The Red Devils will begin defense of their GWOC American North co-championship, which they shared with Troy, with one of the youngest teams Cahill has seen in recent years.

“We are an extremely young team with only three seniors,” Cahill said. “We are fortunate to have two of the top pitchers in the GWOC in (Kenton) Egbert and (Ian) Yunker and a great defensive catcher in Cade Beam. We will be a team that will have to steal bases, get the bunt down when necessary and play strong defensively.

“We have a lot of good athletes who are trying to make their mark on Tippecanoe baseball and, despite being young, our expectations are the same. Our goal is to win the GWOC North and advance in the state tournament.”

Anchoring the pitching staff will be Egbert, who will pitch at Miami University next year, and Yunker, who will pitch at Morehead State. Joining them on the mound will be junior Nolan Mader, sophomores Jacob Smith, Troy Taylor, Jack Cleckner and Jonathan Baileys, along with freshman Matt Salmon.

Behind the plate will be Beam, an All-GWOC performer last season. Backing up beam will be Smith.

Yunker and Salmon will share duties at first base, depending on who is pitching that day. At second base will be senior C.J. Miller, junior Joey Dietz and junior Jackson Subler. Taylor and Subler both will play shortstop. At third base will be Egbert, Mader and junior Gavin Nordquist.

In the outfield will be junior Eli Hadden, sophomore Nick Shirley and Cleckner, Baileys, Mader and Smith.

• Newton

PLEASANT HILL — Newton lost its entire pitching staff off a team that went 18-3 and won the Cross County Conference last year — but coach Jordan Kopp still feels his team has the athletes to make another run at a conference title.

“We lost all of our innings from the mound last year, so we will be very inexperienced — but I like the guys we have to fill those roles,” Kopp said. “Our three senior leaders have a ton of experience, and we will rely on those guys early in the season as we work some new guys in different positions. Keys to our success for 2019 will be playing good defense and executing the small things offensively.”

Expect senior Ryan Mollette — a four-year starter in center field who will play at Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne next season — and senior Charlie Walker, also a four-year starter, to shoulder most of the pitching duties. Sophomores Ross Ferrell and Alex Koon also will see time on the mound.

Cameron Caldwell will be behind the plate, while also playing second base. Sophomore Mitchell Montgomery will be at third base. Ferrell will play shortstop, while Koon will play first base.

Senior Nate Zeilinski will play left field.

• Miami East

CASSTOWN — Miami East returns a wealth of talent from last season.

“Our goal is to finish the season with a good, positive team identity and strong preparation for the tournament,” East coach Dean Denlinger said. “We want to strive to give 100 percent every day and be the best.”

East’s pitching staff will consist of seniors Ian Gengler and Javin Lipscomb, along with sophomores Tyler Kirby and Garrett Lemaster. Catching for the Vikings will be Andy Wargo.

Gengler and Lemaster will split time at first base. At second base will be Alex Hayes. Kirby will play shortstop. Lipscomb will be at third base.

In the outfield will be Jessie Nick, David Osting and Lemaster.

• Milton-Union

WEST MILTON — The Bulldogs hope to build on their recent success this season.

“I see our league being wide open,” Milton coach Mark Gunston said. “Waynesville, Carlisle and Madison will all be tough this year; I see us being right up there. Team goals this year would be to finish high in the league standings, and after getting a few tournament wins under our belts the last couple years, we are hoping to make a run again this year.”

Milton’s pitching staff will consist of All-Southwestern Buckeye League selection Aaran Stone, Alex Beam, Dustin Booher and Kayge Thwaits. Behind the plate will be freshman Blake Neumauer and Thwaits.

“We have a young staff that will be filling in some of the reliever roles,” Gunston said.

The infield will be anchored by All-SWBL selection A.J. Lovin at shortstop. At second base will be Booher, Sam Case and Nate Thompson. At the corners will be Stone, Thwaits, Case and Aaron Hughes.

Senior Josh Wooddell will be the main cog in the outfield along with Beam, Case, Thompson, Stanley Fairchild and Cayden Galentine.

• Troy Christian

TROY — The Eagles return a wealth of pitching and speed from last season.

“Our pitching and defense could be our strengths,” Troy Christian coach Tony Ferraro said. “We are excited with our preseason. We are making strides on offense and defense. We hope to compete for a league title.”

Pitchers for the Eagles will include Zach Seagraves, Caleb Twiss, Nathan Waltz, Ethan Twiss, Charlie Wolfe, Jason Blake, Will Knostman and Lucas Day.

Playing catcher will be Carson Kindred. Playing infield will be Waltz, Caleb Twiss, Ethan Twiss, Noah Kenworthy, Gavin Blore, Wolfe and Day. In the outfield will be Jake Ronicker, Seagraves, Blore, Blake and Knostman.

• Bethel

BRANDT —Following the retirement of long-time coach Brett Brookhart, Chase Goulette takes over the program.

Pitchers for the Bees will be seniors Layne McClure and Patrick Swinderman, along with junior Dylan Williams. Behind the plate will be sophomores Ryan Dilbeck and Max Koehler.

Playing the infield for the Bees will be sophomore Spencer Briggs, sophomore Braden Hennagir, sophomore Justin Pantall and senior Micah Mutlu. In the outfield will be senior Andrew Mosier, junior Trevor Walker, junior Tommy Brooks and sophomore Ryan Santo.

Goulette said the Bees’ goal is to win the CCC.

• Covington

COVINGTON — Andy Johnson returns for his second season as coach.

The Buccaneers went 1-20 last year and 1-11 in the CCC.

Graduating off that team were Braden Miller and Mason Dilley.

Returning letterwinners include senior Gavin McReynolds, juniors Colton Francis, Raven Grilliot and Stephen Sporek and sophomores Jakob Hamilton, Cooper Jay, Trentin Alexander and Wes Gooding.

“We learned a lot from our mistakes last year and were making great strides by the end of the season,” Johnson said. “We have a young core of athletes who are led by our upperclassmen who set a great example for them to follow. Our expectation is to compete in every game and give us a chance to win. Our goal is to continue to develop the Covington baseball program.”

Johnson said he expects the Buccs to be much improved in the CCC this year.

• Bradford

BRADFORD — Andy Mead returns as the Bradford baseball coach.

The Railroaders finished 9-12 overall last season and 3-9 in the CCC.

Graduating off that team were Andy Branson, Parker Smith, Clay Layman, Josh Phillips, Cole Gambill and Noah Hamilton.

Returning letterwinners include seniors Hunter Gheen and Larkin Painter, juniors Wyatt Spangler and Gaven Trevino and sophomores Gage Wills and Fisher Spencer.

“Last year, we finished the season by winning 11 of 13 games,” Mead said. “Last year, seven of our losses were by two runs or less. Winning the close games will make a significant difference in our season record and seeding. This year our team is looking forward to a competitive season with the leadership of three seniors and young impact players.”

Mead has high expectations in the CCC.

“We will again be looking to get over the .500 hump that we have been stuck in for the last couple years with a league finish near the top and playing some quality baseball through tournament play,” Mead said.

• Lehman Catholic

SIDNEY — Hall of Fame coach Dave King returns for his 12th year as Lehman coach and 38th overall. King passes the 600-win mark last season when the Cavaliers went 15-8 overall and 6-1 in the NWCC.

Graduating off last year’s team were infielder/outfielder Brandon Barhorst, second baseman Tyler Lachey, outfielders Anthony Karns and Owen Smith, DH Ryan Schmidt and infielder/outfielder/pitcher Preston Rodgers.

Returning letterwinners include seniors Jared Magoteaux, John Cianciolo, Bryce Kennedy, Bradly Haynes, Seth Roe and Mitchell Sollmann; and juniors Drew Barhorst, Ethan Potts, RJ Bertini and Brandyn Sever and sophomore Alex Keller.

“We have some key people back,” King said. “But, we must fill some voids on defense left by graduation. We need to pitch well, as always and be sound on defense. We want to compete well day in and day out and league and postseason are always a high priority.”

King expects Marion Elgin and Lima Perry to be strong in the NWCC and said Upper Scioto Valley and a few others have some decent arms.

• Russia

RUSSIA — Kevin Phlipot returns as coach.

The Raiders were 19-10 overall last year and 10-2 in the SCAL.

Graduating off that team were Hunter Cohee, Dion Puthoff. Daril Lavy, Brandon Koverman, Jack Dapore, and Carter Stueve.

Returning letterwinners include seniors Daniel Kearns, Evan Monnier, Jordan York, Carter Francis and Will Sherman and junior Mason Dapore.

“(Fort) Loramie will be the league favorite but I do believe we have a chance to contend for the SCAL as well,” Phlipot said. “Our pitching may not be as deep as it has been in the past but any game that Daniel Kearns starts, we have a chance of winning. Our overall success will depend on our offense. If we hit well, I think we will do well.”

Phlipot also expects Anna to be in contention for the title.

• Versailles

VERSAILLES — Ryan Schlater returns as coach.

The Tigers finished 18-5 overall last year, 6-3 in the MAC and were D-III district runner-ups.

Graduating off that team were Keaten McEldowney, Cole Niekamp (Ohio State), Kurtis Rutschilling, Noah Grisez, Ellit Bruns and Noah Richard.

Returning letterwinners include seniors Zach Griesdorn, Will Eversole, Garrett Toops, Zach Schlater, Brayden Robinson, Kyle Pothast and Andrew DeMange.

“We lost six starters from last year’s team, but we have a great group of kids coming back,” Schlater said. “They earned some valuable experience over the summer making it to the ACME state championships. We are excited for the year to begin and I look for us to be very competitive.”

Schlater is shooting for a top four finish in the MAC.

• Houston

HOUSTON — Dan Barker takes over as Houston baseball coach.

The Wildcats were 5-17 last season and 3-9 in the SCAL.

Graduating off that team were Hunter Herrick, Brad Hickerson and Dexter Ingle.

Returning letterwinners include seniors Howie Ludwig, Dominic Beaver, John Leist and Luke Foster and junior Brennan Arnold.

“Our goal is to compete and get better daily,” Barker said. “Wins and losses will take care of themselves. The renovations for the baseball complex have been completed and we are anxious to get out on the field.”

Mike Ullery | Miami Valley Today file photo Piqua’s Zack Lavey puts down a bunt last season. Lavey returns for the Indians this season.
https://www.dailycall.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/30/2019/03/web1_zachlavey.jpgMike Ullery | Miami Valley Today file photo Piqua’s Zack Lavey puts down a bunt last season. Lavey returns for the Indians this season.

Mike Ullery | Miami Valley Today file photo Lehman Catholic catcher RJ Bertini is back this season. Bertini makes a tag during a game last season.
https://www.dailycall.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/30/2019/03/web1_bertini.jpgMike Ullery | Miami Valley Today file photo Lehman Catholic catcher RJ Bertini is back this season. Bertini makes a tag during a game last season.

Lee Woolery | Miami Valley Today file photo Kenton Egbert returns to help anchor the Tippecanoe pitching staff this season.
https://www.dailycall.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/30/2019/03/web1_042418lw_tipp_egbert1.jpgLee Woolery | Miami Valley Today file photo Kenton Egbert returns to help anchor the Tippecanoe pitching staff this season.

Miami Valley Today file photo Charlie Walker is back for his fourth year in the starting lineup at Newton.
https://www.dailycall.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/30/2019/03/web1_charlie-walker.jpgMiami Valley Today file photo Charlie Walker is back for his fourth year in the starting lineup at Newton.