The Golden Aces baseball team lost seven seniors from last year’s 13-14 squad which lost in the Class 2A regional championship. Though another big senior class (six players) moves in, they won’t be nearly as experienced.
“Those guys that I lost last year were two and three-year starters,” said manager John Copeland, set to debut his club on Tuesday in a 5 p.m. home game against Gibson Southern. “These guys will be getting a lot of new experiences.”
And, they’ll be getting that experience in a hurry, ready or not.
“We’ve got eight games in the first two weeks,” Copeland said, noting that this week’s first four games are all at Dee White Field, including the Big 8 Conference opener against Jasper on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m.
“If we can get through these first two weeks playing good baseball and getting back into the groove, we’ll be all right,” Copeland said.
Pitching is perhaps the biggest question mark heading in, though not in the biggest games where junior returnee Reece Metcalf should get the start. Seniors Cole Berry, Sam Wampler, and junior Thomas Allen will form the pitching rotation, according to Copeland.
“Pitching will take a while, because our guys haven’t thrown a lot of innings,” Copeland said. “Building that arm strength so that we can go deep into ballgames will be a key.”
Defense will be an unproven quantity as well.
“I really hope our guys step up. We struggled with errors last year, and have done a lot of drills and little things to correct that,” Copeland said. “You can’t win ballgames making that many errors.”
Senior Jared Piper will anchor down the infield. The Hillsboro College-bound Piper will play shortstop. Ian Hipsher will start at first base, Cort Rodgers at second, with Berry and Allen at third. Wampler will be behind the plate.
The Aces will line up with Noah Thompson in left, Metcalfe in center, and Alex Obermeyer in right.
Christian Seaton and Nate Jackson are two seniors out for baseball for the first time, to bolster senior returnee Briar Flaherty. Junior Kieffer Goldman returns for his third season as well.
Hitting will be the Aces strongest suit, according to Copeland.
“We’ve got a lot of pop from spots 1 through 5 (in the lineup),” Copeland said. “Top to bottom, we’ve got guys who can hit. We’re quick and have a lot of speed, too.”
In the Big 8 Conference race, Copeland expects Jasper to be at the forefront once again. “I have no reason to believe they won’t,” he said. “It seems like they do nothing but reload every year. But, Mt. Vernon is always solid, and Princeton has a good ballclub.”
Perhaps the biggest change ahead is on the turf at Dee White Field. For the first time since the field was first dedicated in April 1999, there is an all-dirt infield.
Why the switch from the original all-grass design? “The last few years the ball has been taking some wild hops. And those bad hops were getting to the point where we had to make a change,” Copeland said. “You can only smooth out grass so much.”
NOTES: Mt. Carmel will host a 5-team IHSA Class 2A Regional tournament. Also assigned: Carmi, Fairfield, Flora, and Lawrenceville.