Pacers poised for productive spring


By Ben Stroup - bstroup@aimmediamidwest.com



The Delaware Hayes baseball team has been hovering just below the .500 mark the last several seasons … something this year’s group is more than capable of changing.

“I really like the pedigree of this team … they’re competitors and fighters,” Hayes coach Ryan Montgomery said. “I think they’ll surprise a lot of people with their relentless effort and determination.”

You see, the Pacers didn’t like losing more than they won last spring, which Montgomery said was especially apparent by how hard they worked this offseason.

“This is a group that won’t give in,” Montgomery said. “They’re extremely determined … that could be seen all offseason during our morning workouts with the attitude and effort they put into getting better every day.

“I believe the unity we created this offseason will help with our resilience and fight in close games. We’re looking to take advantage of that this season by turning around a lot of those close loses from last season into victories this year.”

Montgomery said the 2018 edition of Hayes baseball will be buoyed by pitching and defense. The rotation will be anchored by seniors Jason Cross and Nick Neuhart and junior Mason Davis.

“They’ll be the horses this season,” the coach said. “Right behind them, though, are Matt Gladden (junior) and Cory Richardson (sophomore). This is the first year we’ve had a ton of depth at the pitching position, which should be a strength of this team. We also have a ton of solid relievers who can go multiple innings for us.”

Cross, a University of Northwestern Ohio commit, keeps hitters off-balance with a good mix of four solid pitches he can go to at any time. Davis, another three-year contributor, will start at shortstop and provide some pop in the lineup when he’s not on the mound and Neuhart, who will continue his baseball career at Methodist University after this season, will also log lots of innings.

Montgomery said his team should be able to put some runs on the board as well. The lineup, featuring experienced guys like four-year letterwinner Dominic Byers and three-year letterwinners Cole Barton, Ryan Daughenbaugh and Zach Miller, is as balanced as it’s been in years. All four are seniors.

“Dom was honorable mention All-OCC and All-District last season,” Montgomery said. “He was our leading hitter by average last year and we’re looking for big things from him at the plate again. Cole has great speed and will be our leadoff hitter — he’s an extremely dynamic player — Ryan will be a big contributor for us at the plate because he has power to all fields and Zach will be a middle-of-the-lineup hitter for us.”

Byers, a Wingate University commit, will play third base and shortstop in addition to seeing some time on the mound. Barton will be the second baseman, Daughenbaugh is making the switch from right field to center and Miller is moving from left field to right.

Junior Zach Price and senior Logan Keeder will also be key cogs for the Pacers.

“Zach is making the switch from shortstop to first and will be one of our top relievers out of the bullpen,” Montgomery said. “He’s a great hitter with tremendous power … he’s a guy that can change the outlook of the game with one swing of the bat.

“Logan will take over behind the plate. He’s an extremely smart baseball player who knows the pitches really well and knows how to control the game.”

Montgomery said fans should also look out for senior Isaiah Moore, sophomore Alex Kelly and juniors Ryan Murphy and Brandon Flannery this spring. Moore is a left fielder with plenty of power in his bat, Kelly will be a key piece to the lineup, Murphy will be another go-to reliever and Flannery will be a utility guy who can play just about anywhere.

Hayes opens the season next Tuesday against visiting Saline (Michigan). First pitch is slated for 5 p.m.

SOFTBALL

For years, the Delaware Hayes softball team was a shoe-in for the district title game. The Pacers made three straight from 2013-2015 … and made it look easy.

They fell a game short each of the last two seasons, though … something Hayes’ experienced core is looking to change this time around.

The Pacers will be led into the 2018 campaign by four-year letterwinners Amaia Daniel (catcher/shortstop), Mallory Stonebraker (first base) and Audrey Hannahs (left field).

“Amaia will be the leader of the team,” Hayes coach Mark Thomas said. “Mallory is our power hitter and Audrey brings a lot of experience to the outfield.”

Three-year letterwinners Chloe Barton (third base) and Lexi Mattix (second base), both juniors, are also back.

“Chloe has a very good glove, speed and arm at the hot corner,” Thomas said, “and Lexi has nice speed to cover the holes and is a great leadoff slapper.”

Other returners included junior catcher Bobbi Adams, sophomore pitcher Haley Osborne, junior center fielder Alex Armstrong and junior designated player Liaiha Slayton.

“Bobbi is a very good catcher who will help our team with her experience from last year,” Thomas said. “Haley will be our No. 1 pitcher again this year. She has improved and is ready to take control in the circle.

“Alex has made big strides since last season and Liaiha brings experience to the offensive side of the ball. She’s a good hitter.”

Others Thomas expects to contribute will be senior outfielder Megan Shearer, senior right fielder/second baseman Abby Lewis, senior pitcher Jillian Haley and senior outfielder Alison Gemberling.

Thomas said experience and team unity are the group’s biggest strengths.

“I like how tight we are as a team and we’re bringing back a lot of experience from last year.”

The Pacers open the spring next Tuesday against visiting Watterson. First pitch is slated for 5:15 p.m.

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By Ben Stroup

bstroup@aimmediamidwest.com