The New Franklin Bulldogs baseball team will have plenty to build from during the fall season with eight starters back under head coach Erich Gerding.
After finishing the spring season at 7-11, Gerding will plenty of ample bodies to fill out a lineup with 18 players suited out for the 2018 season.
But more importantly, Gerding said he feels like this team will have some success because they have a lot of fun playing together and they know the game a little better.
“We just need to keep building from last fall and last spring,” Gerding said. “These young kids have had to play a lot so they know what we want now. Since the fall season is shorter than the spring I think the kids have their sights set on competing for the conference title. But like any team, how we do will depend on the pitching.”
As how the CAC stacks up this fall, Gerding said Cairo is going to be good after playing for a district title in the spring against Sturgeon.
“We always hope we fit in somewhere towards the top,” Gerding said.
Back to the pitching, if the Bulldogs are going to contend this fall they will have to rely heavily on the arms of juniors Gavin Bishop and Andy Neal. Bishop finished 4-4 in the spring with an ERA of 2.79 while pitching 37 2/3 innings and giving up 26 runs on 32 hits and 20 walks while striking out 44 batters. Neal, meanwhile, finished 3-4 with an ERA of 5.67 while throwing 37 1/3 innings and surrendering 37 runs on 49 hits and 29 walks while striking out 34 batters.
Gerding said the pitching staff made a lot of improvement from the fall to the spring, lowering their ERA from 9.08 in the fall to 5.62 in the spring.
“We just didn’t walk a lot of batters in the spring,” Gerding said.
Other players who will get a look on the mound are senior Koy Harris, juniors Jackson Dorson, Crayton Gallatin and sophomores Colten Collyott and Tysen Dowell.
Harris pitched a total of 17 2/3 innings for the Bulldogs in the spring while Dorson logged eight innings, Collyott 6 2/3 innings and Gallatin 4 2/3 innings.
“Not just the pitching staff but the team in general I think has the desire to get better and win,” Gerding said. “I think we gained a lot in close games last year so hopefully that pays off for us this year. The biggest thing is overall consistency in throwing strikes and having a consistent approach at the plate.”
The Bulldogs will also return their top catcher from last year in junior Zac Held. While hitting .271 in the spring with 13 hits in 48 at-bats, Gerding said Held caught almost every game and finished with a fielding percentage of .970 behind the plate with 16 assists and only four errors.
Other players that could possibly see playing time behind the plate this fall are senior Dustin Mehrhoff, Dowell, Dorson, Gallatin and sophomore Jordan Peterman.
On the infield, Gerding said Gallatin is the frontrunner at first base but also suggested that Dorson and Mehrhoff could also see some playing time at first.
Junior Avery Lauer returns at second base for the Bulldogs after hitting .349 with 15 hits in 43 at-bats with 12 singles, two doubles and one triple.
Neal and Dowell could also see some playing time at second, Gerding said.
On the left side of the infield, Gerding could have any number of players at shortstop in Bishop, Neal, Collyott and freshman Caleb Hull.
Bishop hit .304 last spring with 17 hits in 56 at bats while Neal batted .211 with eight hits in 38 at bats.
Meanwhile, at third, Gallatin returns after playing the position toward the end of the season in the spring.  Mehrhoff and Held will also see some playing time at third, according to Gerding.    
Gallatin hit .286 with 12 hits in 42 at bats while Held batted .271 with 13 hits in 48 at bats.
“We have a lot of experience back on the infield,” Gerding said. “We also have a lot of flexibility back at those five spots.”
As for the outfield, Gerding said again these positions are very interchangeable.
In the outfield, Collyott returns in center after hitting .340 with 17 hits in 50 at-bats with 15 singles, two doubles and seven RBIs in the spring. Gerding said Collyott was also voted defensive MVP last year.
As for left and right field positions, Gerding said Dowell, Dorson or Harris could see playing time on the corners in the outfield.
“Last spring the outfield was a strength,” Gerding said. “They did a good job of tracking the balls down so I expect them to be as strong, if not stronger, this fall.”
Other players that will see playing time either at the varsity or JV level are Austin Durbin, Christian Clark-Ivy, Landon Belstle, Sam Marshall, Zac Roth and Brett Thompson.

New Franklin
Aug. 25-Atlanta Tourn., TBA
Aug. 28-NEW BLOOMFIELD, 5:00
Aug. 31-MADISON, 5:00
Sept. 4-CAIRO, 5:00
Sept. 6-STURGEON, 5:00
Sept. 7-at Russellville, 5:00
Sept. 11-BUNCETON, 5:00
Sept. 13-HIGBEE, 5:00
Sept. 14-at Brunswick, 5:00
Sept. 18-GLASGOW, 5:00
Sept. 20-at Sturgeon, 5:00
Sept. 24-at New Bloomfield, 5:00
Sept. 28-at Pilot Grove, 5:00
Oct. 2-JAMESTOWN, 5:00
Note: *-Home games in caps.