There are plenty of question marks that surround the Jonathan Alder baseball team as it prepares to open the 2017 season.
But while he may not know exactly how things will turn out for his team, Pioneers coach Craig Kyle is pretty confident he knows what he has this spring.
“There are a lot of questions that need to get answered, but I’m excited about what we have. We have a lot of young, talented players who are just inexperienced at the varsity level. I’d rather have that talent without experience, than experienced kids who aren’t as talented.”
The Pioneers were 22-4 last season, won the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference Red Division with a perfect 14-0 mark but were upended in a Division II District semifinal by Licking Valley 2-1. Alder has traditionally been strong in the postseason, but has gone the last two seasons without winning a district title.
Coach Kyle’s team put together a formula that usually works, it includes having strong pitching, playing solid defense and coming through with big hits with runners in scoring position. The formula has proven to work, but the question is whether or not the team will get what it needs out of a pitching staff that lacks a true workhorse at the top of the rotation.
“Our biggest question mark is on the pitching mound and with our pitching depth,” he said. “Those are the two biggest questions that need to get answered. When we’ve been good, we’ve been really good on the mound. Until they prove they can get it done at the varsity level it’s going to remain a question mark.
The pitching duties look as if they will fall on the shoulders of senior Colton Swick and Cal Duckworth. Freshman Connor Morgan and sophomore Xavier Beachy will also get a chance to show what they can do.
The Pioneers will be strong in some other key areas including behind the plate with senior catcher Ian Gehres, Duckworth at shortstop and junior Preston Eisnaugle at second base. Senior Hunter Maynard returns to third base and senior Josh Nees is slated for first base,
Other returnees include juniors Austin Hurley (LF/P), Cole Schrock (RF/P) and Joey Sajdyk (1B/P).
“Defensively I feel like we’ll be really good and I think our approach will be the same,” Kyle said. “Play good defense and get good pitching. We aren’t a team that’s going to score a lot of runs, we’re going to have to manufacture runs and rely on getting big hits with runners in scoring position.”
Despite the question marks that exist, Kyle didn’t back away from his aggressive scheduling. The Pioneers will once again play a collection of the best teams in Central Ohio and from across the state. The coach believes that doing that even with an unproven pitching staff is the best way to prepare for the postseason.
“We didn’t dial back the schedule at all,” he said. “There are lot of good teams in our league and anytime you can step up in the non-league and play good teams it’s going to help you become a better team. It’s going to be a challenge and our new faces are going to find out what it’s like right away.”
Alder will open the season Saturday against Wheelersburg at VA Memorial Stadium in Chillicothe. Start time is 5 p.m.
Reach Chris Miles at 740-852-1616, ext. 1618 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.