Without even stepping on the field this season, New Franklin baseball coach Erich Gerding admitted that this year’s team could be something special.
After winning the district tournament last year and advancing to the playoffs, the Bulldogs felt they were one or two hits away in 2012 of advancing possibly to the Final Four.
But this year with 15 players suited out for the 2013 season, all of which are returning from the fall after finishing 6-6, Gerding said the goals this year are to have a mission every minute of each and every day and to be conscious of what their mindsets are.
“Our big goal is to compete for, win, and repeat a district championship,” Gerding said. “That should be in the back of our minds, however. Instead, we must continually ask ourselves “What can I do at this very moment to accomplish my mission?” Thus, we must do whatever it takes in practice to get prepared for the season. If we want to be successful, we must live in the moment and focus intensely on the process, not dwelling on the past or thinking about the future. We must play one pitch at a time like each one might be our last.”
Having already suffered a setback in the season opener against Pilot Grove 9-5 in 8 innings, the Bulldogs will have to rebound in hopes of meeting the Tigers again come district time in May.
Needless to say, New Franklin will have plenty of chances to improve its game from now until then.
In addition to returning two of the top pitchers in the area in senior Tyler White and junior Tyler Hull, who were both all-conference and all-district selections, the Bulldogs also return three other players selected to the CAC team in the fall in senior Jacob Woodbury, junior Alex Holem and freshman Zachery Evans.
Gerding said along with those players, the Bulldogs will also return Matt Anderton, Evan Storjohann, Tanner White and Dylan Johnson from last spring. Others who occasionally started were Austin Wetrich, Adam Harris, T.J. Schapira and Levi Bishop.
But make no mistake, the Bulldogs are looking to building on the fall season. Gerding said everyone made significant and memorable contributions.
“We need to repeat that this spring, but improve on our execution of defensive and offensive fundamentals,” Gerding said. “We need to get better in a few areas, but if we build on our effort, attitude, and ability, we will be successful this spring. We must also strive to consistently play heads up baseball one pitch at a time day in and day out. It’s time to turn potential into execution and execution into wins. This group is capable of doing something special if they full commit everyday to the mission they wish to accomplish, both individually and together, as one coehesive unit.”
With a plethora of starters returning from last year’s playoff team, Gerding said depth on the mound, which can be a huge advantage for the team if everything goes well should be a strength.
“We also had a decent fall offensively, but our execution was not very consistent,” Gerding said. “Our infield, defense, especially up the middle, will be a key for us, and needs to be more consistent as well. If Jacob Woodbury and Adam Harris can do the job behind the plate and if we can catch and throw behind whoever is pitching, we will be ok. Evan’s ability to play a quality shortstop will be a factor in our success as well. We also need some bats to come alive this spring, especially from some of our younger guys further down in the lineup to get the guys at the top in and/or get on base for the guys at the top.”
As for the positions this season for the Bulldogs, Gerding said a lot of it will depend on who is pitching and/or hitting well at the moment. He said he likes to use kids at all kinds of different spots in different situations, which means almost everyone is a utility player.
As for the pitching this season, Gerding could go with any number of pitchers such as Tyler White, Tyler Hull, Alex Holem, Tanner White, Evan Storjohann, Adam Harris, TJ Schapira, Dylan Johnson, Levi Bishop and Kaleb Anderton.
White and Hull, the most experienced pitchers of the group, finished the fall season at 3-1 and 1-2, respectively. Holem and Storjohann, meanwhile, had the only other wins for the Bulldogs.
As for the catcher position, Gerding said whoever is behind the plate has to be dependable and tough for the team to be successful. Players that Coach Gerding will look to to do the catching this season are Jacob Woodbury, Adam Harris, Tyler White, Kaleb Anderton and Dylan Johnson.
White was the leading hitter of that group with a .520 clip with 13 hits in 25 at-bats. Woodbury batted .286, Harris .200 and Johnson .136.
At first base, junior Alex Holem returns after hitting .294 with 10 hits in 34 at-bats. Gerding said Tanner White, Evan Storjohann and Dylan Johnson could also see playing time at first.
The second base position will also have a number of players who could split time there this season such as Storjohann, Wetrich, Harris, Woodbury, Schapira and Anderton.
Meanwhile, on the left side of the infield, Tyler White and Tyler Hull will split time at shortstop depending on who is pitching. Evans and Storjohann could also see some playing time at short.
As for the third base position, Gerding will look to either Tyler White, Hull, Woodbury, Storjohann or Bishop.
Of that group along with Tyler White, Hull returns after hitting .469 while Evans finished the fall season with a .308 clip.
In the outfield, Gerding will have his pick from a number of players. Tanner White, Matt Anderton, Storjohann, Johnson, Bishop, Hendrix and Kaleb Anderton will see time in left. In center, Gerding will look to either Matt Anderton, Tanner White, Storjohann, Kaleb Anderton or Hendrix. Meanwhile, in right, Storjohann, Bishop, Johnson and Dallas Pumel could all find themselves battling it out for a starting spot.