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LEOPOLD—Some new starters will have to come through with the bats if Perry Central is to repeat as PLAC baseball champion this spring.
“We’ve got almost all of our pitching back from last year,” said Coach Gary Hanan. “The biggest question mark I think is how well we’re going to hit the ball.
“Of the seven kids that graduated last year, all of them contributed offensively. We’ll have to see what the juniors will be able to do.”
There are only four seniors on the team, including one, Zach Lutgring, who lettered two years ago but did not play last year.
Senior first baseman Ian Hahus was the leading hitter for the 14-11 Commodores last year with a .397 batting average despite missing about three weeks with an ankle injury.
Another senior, Clint Cassidy, hit .372 last year and tied for the team lead in RBIs with 15.
Cassidy also pitched last year and is one of the Commodores’ top two pitchers this year along with junior Andrew Harpenau. “It’s hard to distinguish which is No. 1—they’re pretty even,” said Hanan.
Harpenau went 5-4 last year and led the team with 16 strikeouts and a 3.20 earned run average in 501⁄3 innings.
He was 4-0 with an 0.64 ERA and 10 strikeouts in PLAC games.
Cassidy went 3-3, including 1-0 with a 4.20 ERA in the conference.
Stephen Hayes, who went 3-0 last year, and Lucas Bryant, 1-1, complete the pitching rotation.
Joey Peter, DeeJay Shaw, Hahus and Seth Raetz will probably be used in relief, said Hanan.
Bryant will be the starting catcher, with Cassidy taking over there when Bryant pitches.
Joining Hahus in the infield will be Harpenau or Shaw at shortstop, Hayes or Peter at third base, and Kyle Troesch or sophomore Trent Brown at second.
Brad Barnes will play first when Hahus goes to the mound.
Raetz is a definite starter in the outfield but “I’m not sure at which position,” said Hanan. “He’s played all three.”
Cassidy “will more than likely play outfield when he’s not pitching” and Lutgring “has played quite a bit of center field in the past,” said Hanan.
Other outfield candidates include Jordan Esarey and Blake Crockett.
Hanan thinks the team’s defense overall “can be as strong as we were last year. We’ve got a pretty sure-handed infield.”
They also have good speed in the outfield. Hanan listed Raetz, Lutgring and Cassidy among the team’s fastest players, along with Bryant.
“Overall our speed is probably a little better than last year,” said Hanan. “We hope we might be able to steal a few more bases.”
That might be the best way for the Commodores to advance base runners, as “so far I’m not real happy with our bunting,” said Hanan. “But we are going to try to bunt. It worked well for us last year—we had 10 or 11 sacrifices.”
Lutgring or Raetz will probably bat leadoff, followed by Hahus, Cassidy and Harpenau or Peter.
Peter could serve as designated hitter if he doesn’t earn a starting spot in the infield.
Though Hanan questions the team’s hitting because of the lack of varsity experience at most spots, “I’ve been pleased with what I’ve seen so far,” he said.
He said the Commodores don’t have much home run power but “we’ve got some kids who can hit the ball hard in some gaps.”
The Commodores won their first outright PLAC title last year in their 30th year in the conference (they had tied for first three times). And with key pitchers returning, Hanan thinks they should be favored to repeat.
He noted, though, that Paoli “has most of their pitching staff coming back. And Crawford County and Mitchell are always capable.”
Hanan said it will “be tough” for the Commodores to win their sectional. “It’s the toughest Class 2A sectional in the state.”
To win it, “we’re going to have to elevate our game, no doubt,” said Hanan. “We’d have to be able to hit the ball up and down our lineup—we can’t afford to have any holes.”