Bulldogs looking to have breakout season with five starters returning in 2020
New Franklin senior Colten Collyott feels like he isn’t asking for much when it comes to playing fall baseball.
With the spring season canceled due to COVID-19, Collyott like many of his teammates and athletes across the state lost a season they can never get back.
But now with only days before the season opener on August 29 in the Atlanta Tournament, Collyott said its starting to feel like baseball season again.
“It’s a thrill after not being able to play in the spring,” Collyott said. “You kind of want to do everything you can to be able to play this year. It’s a game and it’s for run, but Imean it’s also competition and you are trying to out do the other people.”
With 17 players suited out for the 2020 fall season, the Bulldogs could be looking at a breakout season not just in the fall but in the spring as well.
Although New Franklin lost five seniors to graduation in the spring, they return five starters under head coach Erich Gerding.
“Our goals this fall are to be a team, be the most excited to play, and be the best at doing our jobs,” Gerding said. “We also want to continue to develop and strength our defensive flexibility and find our identity as a group. I am just excited we can be practicing right now.”
While finishing 8-6 overall and 3-2 in the Central Activities Conference last fall, Gerding said it’s still up in the air to how the conference looks or how it will shape out. He said every team in the conference has a few good pieces that they can build a competitive team around.
However, if the Bulldogs are going to be contenders in the CAC, Gerding said everyone must be committed to this team and accomplishing team goals, otherwise, they need to do something else with their time.
“We must strive to consistently play heads up baseball one pitch at a time day in and day out,” Gerding said. “This group is capable of good things if they fully commit every day to the mission they wish to accomplish, both individually and together, as one cohesive unit.”
Of course in order for that to happen, Gerding said it all starts with being able to throw quality strikes on the mound. He said he feels like the Bulldogs have 4-5 players who can do that consistently at this point. The key, he said, will be a few more guys stepping up and doing this, too.
New Franklin’s motto for the season also fits the present day situation, which is: one day at a time and make the most of that day.
Gerding is also a believer in players playing many positions, which is no different this season. Of the 17 players on the team, Gerding listed 12 that could see the mound this season. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, only two saw any kind of action last fall with junior Caleb Hull finishing 5-1 with an ERA of 3.00 in 23 1/3 innings, and Keaton Eads at 0-1 with an ERA of 5.01 with 7 innings pitched.
Other players who could see the mound are seniors Colten Collyott and Tysen Dowell, juniors Sam Marshall and Zac Vollrath-Roth, sophomores Owen Armentrout and Clayton Wilmsmeyer and freshmen Tanner Bishop, Connor Wilmsmeyer, Jake Marshall and Sawyer Felten.
At catcher, Gerding will look to Dowell, Felten and freshman Dalton Ivy to lead the Bulldogs behind the plate this season.
Dowell returns after hitting .302 in the fall with 13 hits in 43 at bats. Dowell also tied Collyott for the team-high in stolen bases with five.
As for the infield, Gerding will again look to a number of combinations with Marshall, Connor Wilmsmeyer, Bishop, Jake Marshall and Roth at first and Eads, Hull and Felten at second.
Of the group, Eads returns with the best average at the plate while hitting .400 with 12 hits in 30 at bats. Roth hit .333 in only six at bats while Hull batted .294 with five hits in 17 plate appearances.
On the left side of the infield, Gerding could go with any number of combinations with Clayton Wilmsmeyer, Dowell, Collyott, Hull and Bishop and short. Meanwhile, at third, Gerding will look at three players in Bishop, Thompson and Connor Wilmsmeyer.
Gerding said the infield defense, especially up the middle, will be a key as always, and needs to be consistently good.
“We need leadership at these positions,” Gerding said. “If we can catch and throw behind whoever is pitching, we will be okay. Our ability to play a quality shortstop and have a rock behind the plate will be key factors in our success as well. We need maturity, consistency, and most of all, toughness, from these positions.”
As for the outfield, Collyott will no doubt be the leader for the Bulldogs offensively and defensively. As a four-year starter in center field for New Franklin, Collyott emerged as one of the best at his position while hitting .400 with 16 hits in 40 at bats. He also led the team in triples with two and runs batted in with 13.
Collyott said his goal this season is to go out as a starter and have the best hitting season this year. “Breaking my dad’s record would also be up there, although I doubt if that will happen.”
Other players that will get a strong look in the outfield this season are Jake Marshall, Sam Marshall, Armentrout, Roth, Tony Ortiz, Kadin Sanders, Drake Clark and Dalton Ivy.