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Tell City defense looks strong up the middle

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By Larry Goffinet

TELL CITY - Finding some pitching depth and a catcher to go with the rest of the Marksmen's strong up-the-middle defense are keys for Tell City's baseball team.

The Marksmen will have their third starting catcher in three years despite not graduating any of them.

Two years ago Michael DuPre started there as a sophomore, but last year he was unable to catch because he was coming off knee surgery. He is slated to play first base this year.

Mike Maddle started at catcher last year as a freshman and was second on the team in hitting, but he has moved to Gibson Southern.

So Coach Phil DeSpain will give sophomore Kyle Osborne first shot at catcher this year and hope he is able to play it more than one year.

Whom the catcher will be catching is also somewhat of a question.

The Marksmen return two of their four regular starting pitcher from last year's 11-14 team, Cody Pfeifer (who had a 1-5 record with a 4.15 earned run average) and Eric Henrickson (2-5 with a 3.31 ERA).

"They're our top two and they're pretty even," said DeSpain. "They both have pretty good fastballs for high school and decent breaking balls. Both of them need to improve their change-up."

DuPre, who went 1-1 as an occasional spot starter and reliever, and junior Jordan Rhodes, who pitched quite a bit in Diamond League last summer, will get the next shots to complete the rotation.

"From there we may have to look at some of the younger boys," said DeSpain. "We're probably not as strong as we've been the last couple of years when you get past our top two."

Veteran baseball men usually talk about a team being good if it is strong up the middle, including pitcher, catcher, shortstop, second base and center field. And the Marksmen do have established veterans at the last three of those positions.

Senior Evan Rothgerber returns at second base after making All-PAC last year.

He led the Marksmen in hitting with a .382 batting average and in RBIs with 24.

Ryan Zuelly returns at shortstop after hitting .280 with three home runs and 19 RBIs.

The speedy Pfeifer, who hit .278 and stole a team-high six bases, returns in center field when he's not pitching.

"I think overall our defense won't be bad," said DeSpain. "We're looking at six seniors and four of them have started for three years.

"Rothgerber and Zuelly are about as good a combination as we've had up the middle in the infield."

Junior Andy Chinn will start today's season opener at third base after playing there part of last season.

DeSpain's regular outfield will be three seniors, with Tommy McCallister in left and Henrickson in right.

Henrickson led the team with four homers last year and was fourth in batting average at .312.

But the Marksmen need to develop some other outfielders for when Pfeifer or Henrickson pitch. "We're looking at Jason Hackbarth, Kevin Kanneberg and Eric Arnold," said DeSpain.

The Marksmen hit .288 as a team last year and "I think our hitting will be a little better overall," said DeSpain.

He said he is undecided on a batting order but "Ryan, Cody and Evan are probably going to be in the top five somewhere. Where I don't know. I think a key is finding a leadoff hitter."

DeSpain said he doesn't think there will be as dominant a team in the PAC as in the last three years, when North Posey and South Spencer won Class 2A state titles. But "I can't say there's going to be a weak team in it.

"I think South Spencer's going to be solid. They have (Blake) Monar and (Keith) Haaff back and they had a solid JV team. I think Heritage Hills and Forest Park will be pretty solid and Gibson Southern will be good.

"I think we can be in the top three or four teams."

Mater Dei, last year's Class 3A state runner-up, this year joins this area's Class 2A sectional, which will be held at South Spencer.

"Mater Dei has quite a bit back, so they could be the favorite," said DeSpain.

He thinks the Marksmen could win the sectional, though "we'll have to get a good draw. That's the key for everybody. If we get in the bye bracket, our top two pitchers could throw."