The West Jefferson High School baseball team came up just short of its intended goal a year ago, losing 3-1 to Fredricktown in a Division III Central District championship game.
Just about every member of that Roughriders team returns this spring for what could be a special season. There are very few D-III teams that have as much experience and talent as this group, but coach Jason Bogenrife insists his team won’t lose it’s identity with such lofty expectations.
“We have a great group of guys who have committed to our culture and believe in the process,” the coach said. “The guys are focused and have competed very well so far in the preseason practices and scrimmages. We finally have numbers in our senior and junior classes.
“Our kids will show up ready to compete at an elite level and they understand that our philosophy is to be attack hitters and work ahead, play fundamental defense, run and apply pressure on the bases and move runners when we’re on offense. This is a hardworking-blue collar group of kids and coaches who love the game.”
The Roughriders truly don’t have a weakness and that could mean some truly long days for their opponents. West Jeff will have a bevy of talented pitchers available to throw at opponents. Led by seniors Shane Gray, Jake Boyd and Lance Lambert. Gray was the Mid-State League Ohio Division Player of the Year a season ago and an all-district selection. All three seniors have pitched on the varsity level since they arrived as freshmen.
Other players on the roster who will get a lot of innings include Zach Graham, Cade Brintlinger, Kyle Mason and Dylan Lambert.
At the plate the ’Riders will look to be the aggressors and put pressure on opposing teams. The coach is expecting big seasons from Cole Howard, Connor Shields, Justin Gatley, Jordan South and multiple others who he said have had great at-bats in the preseason.
“I believe our strength is our leadership and culture,” Bogenrife said. “We have worked very hard to improve both. Our kids established their mission and set the standards. They have raised the bar for what is expected within the West Jefferson baseball program.
“We need to continue to improve in being selfless and being great teammates as well as controlling the controllables. If our leadership and culture are elite the rest will take care of itself.“
West Jefferson High School will compete in its first spring as a member of the Ohio Heritage Conference after playing for years in the MSL. The Roughriders coaching staff is expecting the transition to be smooth as he knows his team is going from one tough league to another.
“We are excited to be in the Ohio Heritage Conference and look forward to competing for a league championship,” he said. “It’s a tough conference and we are ready for the challenge.”
Ultimately West Jeff will be trying to take the program deeper in the postseason than it went a year ago.
“We definitely enjoyed the deep tourney run last year and with all but one player returning I believe the kids are excited and ready to compete for a chance to play in the district championship again,” the coach said.
Reach Chris Miles at 740-852-1616, ext. 1618 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.