Cardinal Stritch returns five lettermen from a 17-12 overall finish that saw the Cardinals go 8-4 in the Toledo Area Athletic Conference.
In nine years coaching at Stritch, Greg Christian’s teams have won three TAAC championships and one district championship, and Christian would like to see this year’s team add its fourth league title.
Stritch is expected to finish close to the middle of the pack, and Coach Christian sees Ottawa Hills, Toledo Christian, and Danbury as the cream of the crop.
“We need varsity experience, and we need to be very smart because we are very young,” Christian said.
After winning a sectional championship in 2008, Northwood baseball coach Dave Russell is looking for something more this season — his second season as Ranger boss.
In Russell’s first season as a head coach, the Rangers were 9-14 overall and 5-6 in the Toledo Area Athletic Conference. His team brings back seven lettermen to build on that.
Russell believes Northwood can finish in the top three this season, but says the “league is pretty solid this year.”
“Ottawa Hills and TC are always tough,” Russell said. “Danbury is strong this year as well.”
“We have had some turnover in personnel, but now have a group of extremely dedicated and hard working players that are close,” Russell said. “We have excellent team chemistry and have a great mix of upper and lower classmen.”
CARDINAL STRITCH BASEBALL
Two seniors, catcher Austin Maier and outfielder Andrew Pinciotti are leading that effort. Joining them are returning all league selections in junior shortstop Johnny Newis and junior designated hitter Joe Esposito.
Esposito was the team’s leading hitter last year at .389 and returning teammate Zach Rodriguez followed at .304. Christian can explain Esposito’s technique at the plate.
“Esposito has very quick hands and does not try to pull everything,” Coach Christian said.
On the mound, top pitchers are junior D.J. Zalewski, junior Ryan Adams, and sophomore David Seymanski. Defensively, the Cardinals are led by junior outfielder Johnathon Kelly and Pinciotti.
Coach Christian believes there could be a future for some of his players at the next level someday.
“I think Austin Maier and Andrew Pinciotti could play Division II or Division III college,” Christian said. “Team speed, we are very quick — especially our outfielders.”
Two sophomores are expecting to make big contributions to the infield — second baseman Matt Guy and Tim Langlois. Freshman first baseman Kyle Hatfield and senior third baseman Matt Repka round out the starting roster.
Russell believes two senior outfielders, Mike Smothers and Kevin Yarger, can provide the sparkplug to get the program’s building process started.
“Both worked hard in the off season and we hope to get solid production and senior leadership out of both,” Russell said.
Beyond those seniors and his returning lettermen, Russell believes his team has something special this season to surprise perennial league contenders Ottawa Hills and Toledo Christian.
“If our seniors lead and we stay healthy, we can have a very successful year. We need our seniors to step up and lead,” Russell concludes. “We have a very tight knit group who play well together.”
Tyler Siebert returns after earning Second Team All-TAAC honors, and Alex Williams and Andy Jardy both bring with them Honorable Mention All-TAAC accolades.
On the mound, Siebert is Northwood’s senior ace, Jardy will be a top reliever, sophomore Cameron Juhasz will be a starter, Williams will add to the starting rotation, and sophomore Jake Pressley will fill out the rotation.
Russell says Jardy’s rise to a starting position became a big contributor to Northwood’s big finish. A non-starter early in his junior season, Russell says “he became a starter and a leader.”
Beyond those proven veterans, a lot could depend on whether his underclassmen can contribute. Russell says he’ll have it no other way.
“I expect my six sophomores to step and produce,” Russell said.