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Perry Central baseball team will be young this year

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By LARRY GOFFINET
Sports Editor

LEOPOLD—Perry Central will field a young baseball team this year, but the Commodores do have some experience at the key positions of pitcher and catcher.
Only three starters return from the sectional lineup for last year’s 9-16 team. There are only four seniors on the team and two of them, including a foreign exchange student, have never played high school baseball.
Eight of the 19 boys on the team are freshmen and some of them will have to see varsity action.
The three sectional starters returning, though, include the pitcher and catcher.
Tanner Cassidy was the starting pitcher that game and finished with a 2-4 record, 1.02 ERA, 36 strikeouts and 15 walks in 41 innings.
“He’s got a good curveball,” said Perry Central Coach Phil Zellers.
Austin Linne, a junior left-hander who went 2-0 last year, also returns on the mound.
“He’s been working hard in the off-season,” said Zellers. “He went to a program in Elizabethtown, Ky., and he’s added some velocity to his fastball.”
Those two are expected to do most of the pitching.
After that, “we’ve been working with (juniors) Alton Cummings and Anthony Mosby pitching some,” said Zellers.
Freshmen Trey Mullis and Payton Thompson, a left-hander, may be relief pitchers.
They will throw to an experienced catcher, as senior Andrew Mosby returns behind the plate.
“He’s good at blocking (low pitches) and he’s been working on his mechanics to get quicker throws down to second,” said Zellers.
Cassidy will play shortstop when he’s not pitching, but when he pitches the infield will feature all new starters.
Sophomore Bryce Ridener, who saw relief action at second and played the position a little when Trent Brown was sidelined last year, will start there. “He’s got good fundamentals,” said Zellers.
Linne, who was the designated hitter last year when not pitching, will play first base.
Michael Landers is the favorite for third base. Alton Cummings and Mullis are candidates for shortstop and Mullis is also in the running at third.
Cummings will probably play center field if he’s not in the infield, said Zellers.
Senior Logan Dauby, Anthony Mosby, and freshmen Thompson, Mullis and John Steen are competing for the corner outfield spots.
Due to having several new players and several playing new positions, the defense may struggle early. But “I think it will definitely be stronger as the season goes along and they learn the positions,” said Zellers.
As for hitting, Zellers expects the three returning starters, Cassidy, Andrew Mosby and Linne, to be the team’s leaders and bat “in the middle of our lineup somewhere.”
The rest of the batting order is unsettled, though.
“We’re still looking for a leadoff hitter,” said Zellers. “Right now we’ve got a lot of things to figure out.”
As for speed, Zellers said Dauby, Thompson and Steen “are above average. Everybody else is pretty average.”
Zellers thinks “Tanner and Andrew can hit for power and Linne can get hold of one every now and then.”
But he doesn’t think the team has a lot of power overall, so “I see us having to create more runs with small ball.”
He said Ridener is a good bunter “and I’m hoping Payton Thompson (a left-handed batter) can turn into one.”
Despite the Commodores’ youth, “one of our major goals this year is to win the (PLAC),” said Zellers. “We’ve been very close the last two years, basically losing the conference by one run both years.
“I don’t think there is a clear favorite this year. I know Orleans will be a contender and Paoli and Crawford County have several guys returning.”
Three teams in Perry Central’s Class 2A sectional are ranked among the top 10 in the state in the preseason poll, but by the end of the season Zellers thinks the Commodores can compete for that title too.
“We know it’s one of the toughest sectionals in the state—it always has been,” he said. “But we kind of fly under the radar, so we don’t have anything to lose. We’ve just got to work hard to get better.”