New surroundings for Golden Eagles

By Chris Miles -

There’s an excitement in the air as the Madison-Plains baseball team gets ready to start the 2017 season.

The baseball Golden Eagles return a talented collection of players and will play for the first time in the Ohio Heritage Conference, a league coach Zach Durban believes is a perfect fit for his squad.

“As other sports this year have competed in the OHC already, I have noticed one thing — this is where we belong,” Durban said. “There is never a guarantee of success. You must prepare, work hard, and execute every day in order to achieve success wherever you play.

“Joining the OHC gives our kids a level playing field every night. There is excitement about the challenges and opponents that we have for this season. We cannot afford to take any team on our schedule, OHC and non-league, lightly. In the past three years, we improved our league standing in the (Mid-State League) each season. There were some outstanding teams in our division with much success in the state tournament.”

Madison-Plains High School was 8-16 and finished fifth in the MSL last season. The Eagles have what their coach believes to be a good group of players who have put in the hard work in the off-season and are ready to succeed on the field. He’s hoping for an uptick in offensive production.

“We’ve had a productive fall and winter with open hitting and small group work with our players,” Durban said. “We have dedicated players in all grades of our program that are very excited to get the season started. Our varsity roster currently consists of five seniors, seven juniors and a sophomore.

“Each of these players is competing daily for a starting job which creates a positive environment in our practices. I have emphasized to our team that offensive production is key this year. While defense and pitching are very important, we have to have nine guys every day in our lineup who can regularly put the ball in play and make things happen offensively.”

The Golden Eagles will be led by a collection of seniors who have been around for years. Jaycee Raines (OF) and infielders Connor Davis (3B) and Logan Ebert (1B) all played big roles a year ago. They’ll be joined by Ross Buscemi (middle infielder) and Anthony Tesi (catcher) a pair of players who have had successes in other sports.

“I expect a lot of leadership in the locker room and on the field from our seniors,” the coach said. “Jaycee had a solid junior year starting every game after spot starts and a role player his sophomore season. He was our best outfielder a year ago after four-year starter and all league selection, Jake Vallery. I look to Jaycee for leadership, toughness, and production in the outfield and at the plate.”

Davis and Ebert played significant roles last year and should be counted on for more this year. Buscemi and Tesi have shown the coach that they are ready to go.

“Ross is a returning starter with a lot of experience and should be an offensive threat every game this season. Anthony is coming back to baseball for the first time since junior high. He has worked very hard and is excited to perform at a high level.”

The junior class will be led by starting pitchers Thomas Adams and Tyler Gibbs. The lone varsity sophomore is Isaac Puckett (utility). He’s a returning letterwinner who has a big upside.

“Isaac had an outstanding off-season,” Durban said. “He works as hard as anyone on our roster and has the potential to be a very special player. I feel that Isaac is a natural baseball player and is capable of playing all nine positions at a very high level.”

Other members of the team include junior outfielders Jon Peters, Jacob Toops and Michael George and junior infielders Nick Thompson and Dylan Bird.

Even though it finds itself in a new league, Durban knows that there will be challenges and far fewer excuses if things don’t go well.

“We have a very competitive and challenging schedule ahead of us,” he said. “With non-league games including West Jefferson, Hamilton Township, Worthington Christian, Miami Trace and Westfall, our team will certainly be prepared for the state tournament.

“It will be exciting to see how this year plays out with a mix of experience and inexperience, some positions still up for grabs, and the new pitching rules. No matter the outcome, we know the ownership is on us. No excuses of playing private schools or teams with twice as much enrollment as us.”

By Chris Miles

Reach Chris Miles at 740-852-1616, ext. 1618 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.

Reach Chris Miles at 740-852-1616, ext. 1618 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.