Seymour, Trinity baseball set for opening day against one another


After several weeks of practice, baseball coaches Jeremy Richey of Seymour and Ben Kleber of Trinity Lutheran are anxious to see how their teams will perform in a game.

Those coaches will have that opportunity when the Cougars visit Legion Field Tuesday for a 6 p.m. game.

Both teams lost some excellent players through graduation, which means they are looking forward to blending their veterans with their newcomers.

Richey has been head coach of the Owls since 2011, and coached the team to a 15-10 record last spring.

“We’re really excited about this group,” Richey said. “There were times last year that we started seven sophomores and a freshman. We’re going to have eight juniors that are going to contribute a lot a lot this year with Bret (Perry) coming back as a sophomore.

“So most of our lineup is intact. Regular starters, we lost Brandon Hubbard at third base, we lost (catcher) Brayden Wilson, who was our cleanup batter. We only lost one pitcher, Cody Ruble. The rest of the lineup is back. The offense is a year older. You saw the second half of the season how much more confident those young guys were at the plate. We’re expecting our offense to be really good.”

Heading up the seniors is Aden Burnside, who was the Owls’ No. 1 pitcher last spring and was named most valuable player at the awards program. He was 5-2 and topped the team in wins, innings pitched (50) and strikeouts (55) while posting a 1.82 earned run average. He was all Hoosier Hills honorable mention, and has increased his velocity according to Richey.

Other seniors are Will Cottrill, Andrew Levine and Jounes Rodriquez. Cottrill is an outfielder, and Levine and Rodriquez are infielders and will do some pitching.

Rodriquez played Little League ball in Puerto Rico and came to Seymour in eighth grade. He played football last fall.

“Since I got here they’ve been like my family,” he said. “I’ve been working out in the outfield, and the infield, too,” he said. “I would like to be the shortstop. I’m cool with it. I’m just going to do what (Richey) wants me to do. If he wants me to pitch, I’ll pitch. I’m going to get the work done. I enjoy everything about baseball.”

Rodriquez said he has to be able to make adjustments when he bats. “They’ve been working on many pitches. I expect the first pitch to be a fastball, but it might be a curveball. I just try to make contact and have a good at bat.”

Vince Wilson, Perry and Charlie Longmeier return at the top of the batting order. Perry was Hoosier Hills all-conference first team, Wilson hit .375, and Longmeier was named offensive player of the year as he tied Perry for plate appearances (95) while setting a school record of triples (8) in a season, and he topped the Owls in runs with 29 and in walks with 16.

Perry, Longmeier and Wilson received QAB (quality at bat) awards last season. Those three, plus Aiden Darlage, all bat left handed.

Longmeier and Darlage received Gold Glove Awards for their defense. A player had to have a defensive average of .970 or higher to receive that award.

Returning in the infield are Darlage, Jack VonDielingen, Levine, Perry and Rodriquez. Junior Skylar Cockerham is battling for playing time at third base.

Richey said Treyton McCormick is also a capable offensive threat.

In addition to Burnside, Richey also looks for Perry, McCormick, Darlage and Longmeier to see mound duty. Longmeier, Burnside and Darlage are left handers.

McCormick, Longmeier and Wilson started most of the games in the outfield last spring. Eli Meyer, Cottrill and Jack Pennington are other outfield candidates.

Richey said, “We’ve got a lot of good players and we’re excited to get started. Our schedule has a lot of really good players, too. This is the deepest team we have had since I’ve been the head coach.”

Kleber is beginning his fourth year as head coach at Trinity and has just one senior, pitcher-outfielder Evan Hunt.

“It’s tough. We have a handful of guys that haven’t played or have been off a couple years and want to come back and try it. So that’s awesome,” Kleber said. “We’ve kind of got a new hitting philosophy, a new way we’re doing things, and they’re buying in and doing a good job.

“You can’t replace those four guys from last year. We’re not looking to replace them; we’re just looking to build off what we had. And get better as the season goes. We’re going to have to play some small ball. We’re going to have to do what we can to score runs. Hopefully we can get a run across an inning and then see where we’re at.”

Three of the seniors that graduated did most of the pitching last spring. “We’re going to have 95 percent new innings,” Kleber said.

Peyton Pollert, Kowan Gross, and Nathan Voelker did some pitching last spring. Those three and Luke Coomler and Hunt will do most of the pitching this spring.

Pollert, a sophomore, played centerfield when he didn’t pitch last spring.

“(In centerfield) you’re the captain,” he said. “You kind of get to track down every ball and have free range of the outfield. It’s pretty fun. Communication is very important. Evan (Hunt) and I had a slip up last year and kind of dove into each other. It was a big lesson that you have to talk. It’s a must.”

Pollert said when he is in the on deck circle “I like to focus on his speed, try to figure out what pitches he throws, try to figure out his pitch sequence. If you can pick up, on an 0-1 count he is going to throw another fastball or maybe a junk pitch. It’s an advantage to have in the box.”

When he’s on the mound, Pollert said his main pitch will be his fastball. “I mainly throw a fastball or change up. I like to mix in a curveball if I want. I want to have a speed difference and mix it in inside and outside.”

Kleber said he expects that Voelker, Pollert and Gross will hit at the top of the lineup, and for Coomler and Andrew Bell to produce on offense.

“We’re going to be station-to-station,” Kleber said. “We’re not going to have guys that are going to hit for a lot of power. Hopefully we can find some gaps and drive in some runs.”

Nathan Finke and Bell will share the catching duties, and Voelker will move from second to shortstop. Kleber said Darren Maxie and Chase bode are battling for playing time at the corners.

Hunt and Pollert return in the outfield.

Other juniors are Levi Froedge, Sage Broughton and Cole Brewer.

Kleber said the players need to prepare to play more than one position.

“The more versatile you are the better,” he said, “We’ve been working on throwing strikes and playing good defense. I think if we can do that and scratch a couple runs across we’ll be alright.”

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