Focusing on filling the shoes of seven solid seniors lost to graduation, the Big Walnut baseball team will have a bit of a different look this season.
Fourth-year Golden Eagle coach Chris Holly, who has compiled a 59-28 record while leading the team, does have some of the pieces from last season’s 17-12 squad back, though — pieces he likes.
Back for the Eagles are senior pitcher/catcher Kyle Duncan, senior outfielder Jeremy Bok, junior shortstop/catcher Brayden Shepherd, junior shortstop/second baseman Matt Tarney, junior first baseman Garrett Grover and sophomore centerfielder Nick Moser. Duncan and Bok are back as two-year lettermen. Shepherd, Tarney, Grover and Moser all earned their first letter last season.
“We will have good leadership from our seniors, and we have good team speed coming back,” Holly said. “Overall, I expect us to be very competitive between the foul line.”
The Eagles lost Jay Holland, Max McLean, Cole Harbin, Alex Clark, Brendon Mayer, Joey Woerner and Drew Dattilo to graduation — productive players and solid leaders to boot.
“We lost some good pitching in Harbin and Clark and a lot of depth in the outfield as well as at the infield corners,” Holly said. “We also lost a lot of leadership with the senior class — a tremendous group of young men who will be greatly missed by our coaching staff.”
The coach said developing pitching depth will be a key to building a successful season.
“We’re young and our pitching hasn’t really been tested,” he said. “First, we will need to be mentally tough, and second, our pitching will have to step up … we will have to become mature in a baseball sense.”
Newcomers to the Golden Eagle roster are senior infielder Ryan Grieser, junior outfielder Michael Blackburn, junior outfielder Brandon Daniels, sophomore third baseman Jakob Evans, and sophomore pitcher/first baseman Tommy Fleser.
Looking at the OCC Capital, Holly said the league will be as competitive as ever.
“From the first pitch of the season to the last, the OCC Capital will be a 14-game battle,” he said. “We will have to be ready to play every time we step on the diamond.”
Olentangy Orange is the defending champion, winning the Capital Division with a 12-2 mark last spring, Olentangy placed third with a 10-4 mark with Big Walnut taking fourth with its 7-7 record. New to the division is Worthington Kilbourne, which replaces Watkins Memorial.
Sunbury News’ Gary Henery contributed to this report.