After finishing the spring season one game over .500 at 9-8, the Pilot Grove Tigers baseball team knew they still had some work to do in order to catch up with some of the elite teams.
With 14 players suited up for the 2018 season, three of which are seniors, first-year coach Evan Oswald still may have some work to do this fall to get the Tigers back to the postseason.
“I think we will be really good,” Oswald said. “We’re young but we have a good nucleus of kids returning from last year. The first day I was really impressed. This is a good group of kids and I think they will feed off how competitive I am.”
They may need to early on to gain some confidence. However with only 14 players suited out, Oswald said his team has to stay healthy.
But if the Tigers are going to be successful this season, Oswald said his team will have to play together and give their teammates 110 percent all the time.
“Obviously our No. 1 and 2 pitchers are going to be a strength for us,” Oswald said. “Defensively, we should also be very sound 1-9. I also think we will put the ball in play on a consistent basis. We’re just young. There will be some learning, but the future is very bright.”
Make no mistake about the Tigers this year and for year’s to come, they will have the pitching to keep them in games.
Oswald said right now it’s a toss up who is the No. 1 and 2 between junior Cole Meisenheimer and sophomore Bailey Quint. Quint had the better record of the two at 6-3 with an ERA of 1.487 with 78 strikeouts in 37 2/3 innings. Meisenheimer, meanwhile, was 2-2 with an ERA of 1.461 with 51 strikeouts in 38 1/3 innings. Quint also hit .534 as a freshman with a team-leading 31 hits, 19 singles, 10 doubles and 10 stolen bases. Meisenheimer hit .400 with 20 hits in 50 at-bats with 11 singles and 20 RBIs.
“They are a two headed monster,” Oswald said. “They are both very consistent and they stay around the strike zone. They won’t overpower you so we’ll need to field the ball behind them.”
While Quint and Meisenheimer will do the bulk of the pitching, Oswald said Luke Kollmeyer and Dade Christy will also see some time on the mound. “Luke will see most of his innings in relief,” Oswald said. “As for Christy, he has a solid arm and is consistent around the strike zone.”
Also returning this season for the Tigers is sophomore catcher Dalton Reuter. While Reuter has a strong arm for a catcher, Oswald said he needs to be a little more vocal.
As for the infield, junior Kealin Vinson and senior Laben Twenter will both see some time at first base. Oswald said both kids are big targets. Vinson hit .333 with 16 hits in 48 at bats with six doubles and 14 RBIs while Twenter batted .286 with two hits in seven at bats with two doubles.
The second base position is also a battle between Kollmeyer, Christy, sophomore Dylan Schupp and sophomore Hayden Krumm. With no frontrunner at second, Oswald said this group is working hard to make him choose. “These guys are interchangeable,” Oswald said. “They all have fairly strong arms and can field the ball.”
On the left side of the infield, Quint or Meisenheimer will start at shortstop depending on who is pitching. Meanwhile, at third, Oswald said freshman Bo Vinson and Hayden Krumm are vying for playing time on the left corner. “Bo is probably the frontrunner,” Oswald said. “They both have a strong arm and pretty good glove. I think we will be strong from left to right. The infield has gotten better the first three days of practice fielding the ball, talking and throwing to first. They are more crisp and going to the ball.”
As for the outfield, senior Gavin Shepherd will get the starting nod in center while senior Lucas Fahrendorf will play in left and freshman Isaiah Quick in right.
“Gavin tracks down everything and goes to the ball,” Oswald said. “He will give up his body to make the catch. Seth Blumhorst could also see some playing time in the outfield. Again, I think we will be pretty quick. They also have strong arms and will be able to make most of the catches. However I would be more at peace if they would use both hands to catch the ball.”
Pilot Grove Baseball
Aug. 30-PRAIRIE HOME, 5:00
Sept. 6-at Glasgow, 5:00
Sept. 11-STURGEON, 5:00
Sept. 13-at Prairie Home, 7:00
Sept. 17-at Russellville, 5:00
Sept. 18-at Jamestown, 5:00
Sept. 21-at Cairo, 5:00
Sept. 24-at Bunceton, 5:00 p.m.
Sept. 28-NEW FRANKLIN, 5:00
Oct. 1-OTTERVILLE, 5:00
Oct. 5-at Madison, 5:00
Note: *-Home games in caps.