Regardless of the sport, having individual accolades and team success in the past means little in the present.
Blanchester High School baseball coach Aaron Lawson hopes his Wildcats understand that in 2020.
“We need to improve our knowledge of the game,” said Lawson. “We look good on paper, but the physical can only take you so far.”
If the mental part of the game catches up with the physical part, Lawson said the Wildcats “have the talent and experience to do special things this season.”
Lawson, who is 133-70 in his BHS career as head coach, will be assisted by Drew Freeman, Kyle Campbell, Rusty Black, Alan Ledford and Bradon Pyle.
Blanchester returns seven starters from last season’s 14-9 squad. Led by Brody Rice, the Wildcats have experience with Mason Rector, Reagan Burch, Jacob Hamm, Adam Frump, Trenton Czaika and Cole Ficke. Rice and Ficke were second team All-Southwest District selections. Rector, Goodin and Rice are team captains.
Lawson said the returning players have shown good leadership early on and have helped the underclassmen improve. If the team pitching and defense can get to the next level, Lawson believes his team can contend with Clermont Northeastern for a National Division championship.
Pitching, pitching, pitching.
At any level of baseball, pitching is everything. At the high school level, it is what takes teams deep in the post-season tournament.
East Clinton baseball coach Brian Carey is excited about the Astros 2020 season for that reason.
“This is the best starting rotation I’ve had in the four years of being at East Clinton,” he said. “We are heavily senior led as our top three starters are seniors Matthew Hall, Matthew Horn and Colton Vadnais. Our fourth starter is up and coming sophomore Isaiah Curtis.”
Carey said reliever Cade Stewart and freshman Dakota Collom add depth to the staff. Jaden Singleton and Matthew Mitchell will close out games for East Clinton this season.
Carey, in his fourth season as EC head coach, will be assisted by Adam Doerger and DJ Luttrell this season.
East Clinton, 7-14 last season, returns six starters, including Isaiah Curtis, Jaden Singleton, Quinten Tolle, Colton Vadnais, Matthew Hall and Matthew Mitchell. Mitchell his .448 last season.
Other returning players are Matthew Horn, Cade Stewart, Gage McConahay.
EC must replace two strong hitters from 2019, Zachary Mitchell (.414) and Tristen Burkitt (.410). They also played key roles on defense.
”Our pitching should keep us in all our games this year,” said Carey. “The bats will have to produce three to four runs a game and give our guys some comfort on the mound.”
If this happens, Carey expects big things in 2020.
”I expect to win our second round of sectionals,” he said. “That’s our goal. We want to make the district tournament this year. I’ve known all along this year would be our breakout season. The National Division is one of the best leagues in the southwest. We will see good competition throughout the league from CNE, Blanchester, Williamsburg and Bethel-Tate. They will all be strong competition to get us ready for post-season play.”
The Hurricane posted a 4-16 record last season under first-year head coach Brian Roberts.
Wilmington was 2-8 in the SBAAC American Division.
Roberts is assisted by Phil Gilmore, Bill Davis, Gary Andrews and Connor Caldwell.
WHS graduated all-league performer Jake Vaughan, along with Matthew Spears, Ben McAllister and Alex Meyer.
Returning players include Jordan Tackett, Grant Pickard, Jordan Macik, Ethan Henson and Jeff Spears.
Roberts said his squad has more pitching available this season so if the defense and hitting improve, the Hurricane should be in the thick of the SBAAC American race.
The expectations of the coach for his Hurricane are that they play hard each game and improve on a daily basis.
The Falcons edged Goshen and New Richmond last season for the SBAAC American Division championship, ending New Richmond’s two-year runs of titles.
American Division coach of the year Brian Camp returns and will be assisted by Jeskee Zantene and Tyler Hayslip.
However, 2019 graduates Corey May, Spenser Branham, Luke Chappie and Tyler Lewis do not.
Among the returnees are first team all-league players Seth Goodall, Bryan Kennedy, Dom Kerns and second-teamers Clint Stotts and Dakota Gasaway.
Other players who are back are Caiden Clutter, Kody Zantene, Nolan Prignitz and Jos Merkle.
The Falcons lost 2-0 to Wyoming in the post-season tournament.
Camp said his squad has great chemistry and work well together. The CM coach said pitching depth must be found in order for Massie to compete. Chappie, now at Wilmington College, he said, carried the load for the Falcons in 2019.