Trinity opens season today as Owls visit Cougars Tuesday

After spending a lot of time this winter in indoor hitting facilities at their respective schools getting their pitchers in shape and more time on their diamonds taking infield and hitting practice, baseball coaches Jeremy Richey at Seymour and Ben Kleber at Trinity Lutheran are anxious to see how their teams perform in games.

Kleber will have that chance Monday when the Cougars open their season at home against Edinburgh, and Seymour will open the following day at Trinity.

Both coaches have several key pieces returning from last year.

Charlie Longmeier and Bret Perry were Seymour’s co-hitters of the year last spring. Longmeier batted .429 with 36 hits, he scored 32 runs and had 26 RBI. Perry batted .448 with 32 runs, 39 hits and 20 RBI.

Last spring, Perry hit second, Longmeier third and Aiden Darlage fourth in the batting order. Richey said he and the coaches are looking at maybe changing the top of the batting order as all three of those players bat left-handed. Richey said Treyton McCormick, Skylar Cockerham, Mikey Wright and Jack VonDielingen are all capable hitters.

“Our expectations hitting are pretty high,” Richey said of the offense.

Longmeier and Perry were named to the Hoosier Hills all-conference team.

Darlage, McCormick and Will Gray all earned Gold Glove awards for having excellent defense. McCormick had a 1.000 defensive average with 19 putouts and 1 assist, Gray had a.988 percentage with 149 putouts and 22 assists, and Darlage had .972 percentage with 161 putouts and 14 assists.

Perry and McCormick pitched in several games last spring, and will see a lot of mound action, along with sophomores Brady Harpe, Braden Richey and Wright.

Coach Richey said Sam Rockey, Longmeier, VonDielingen, Darlage, Gavin Leavy and Cockerham may also do some throwing.

Gray shared the catching for the Owls last spring.

Longmeier returns in centerfield and McCormick is back in right field. Richey said Jack Pennington, Grayson Key, and Wright will see some playing time in the outfield.

Returning around the infield are Cockerham at third base, Perry at shortstop, VonDielingen at second base, and Darlage at first base.

Others who will battle for playing time in the infield when the returning starters are on the mound are John Capistran and Richey at third base, Harpe at shortstop, Rockey at second base, and Leavy and Wright at first base.

Richey said, “We’ve got a lot of really good players. The part that I like the most is out of that group, we could play any of those guys and be fine. Depth is definitely our strength. We’ve got 15 that are returning varsity players from last year.

“We’ve got to be better on defense. We were pretty good last year, but this needs to be a big step forward in not making those mistakes that we’ve made in the past and be more consistent.”

The coaches are working with 34 players.

The Owls were 18-10 last spring. Coach Richey said, “We need to be more consistent. I believe our ceiling is going to be higher this year, and I hope we play closer to our ceiling as much as possible.”

Nathan Voelker returns as Trinity’s most valuable player. He topped the Cougars in hitting last spring with 25-for-82 for an average of .305 while batting leadoff. He topped the Cougars in hits, in RBI with 14 and in walks with 14.

On the mound, he threw a perfect game against Brown County and had a record of 5-2 with 51 innings of work, 55 strikeouts and a 4.03 ERA.

Levi Pottschmidt and Luke Coomler were co-most improved players for the Cougars last spring. Pottschmidt was 16-for-55 for a .291 average with nine runs. Coomler started out 0-for-10 but batted over .300 the remainder of the season.

Returning Cougars around the infield are Voelker, who played some third base and shortstop, Coomler at shortstop, Pottschmidt at second base, and Kowan Gross at first base

Others who will compete for playing in the infield are Drake Goodpaster, Jackson Trueblood, and Chase Bode.

“It’s an experienced infield with a couple new guys thrown in there,” Kleber said.

Trinity Lutheran relief pitcher Nathan Voelker during sectionals last season.

Tribune file photo

Sage Broughton returns in left field and Pollert in center. Senior Andrew Bell, who caught and played in the infield last spring, is transitioning to right field, Kleber said, and added that Kade Gillaspy, Cole Brewer and Levi Froedge are also battling for playing time in the outfield.

“The outfield is very senior heavy. We should have a lot of experience, and Peyton tracks down the ball really well,” Kleber said.

Nathan Finke returns behind the plate, and Trueblood and Gillaspy are other catching candidates.

Gross and Voelker return on the mound.

“Voelker really emerged as our best pitcher,” Kleber said.

Bode, Pollert, Goodpaster and Trueblood will also do some pitching.

“We like where our pitching is with some experience and some of those younger guys mixed in. We’ll try to move them along,” Kleber said. “We’ve noticed at practices that (experienced) guys are helping some of the younger guys coming along. We’ve got a lot of freshmen that have never played before that wanted to come out and try baseball and we encouraged that.

“The seniors have done a good job, the drills are crisper, throws are better, and so they’re getting stronger. They’re getting older, and you lose that COVID year with those kids as freshmen that really put you back, so we’re ready to have that experience and those good seniors to lead us.

“I’m hoping we can be more aggressive at the plate and not take so many pitches. I want us to try and attack fastballs more. We’re athletic and we want to try and get on base more. We’ve got some speed and we want to be able to use that. We can be pretty attacked at the top with some seniors and hopefully that helps us with the experience.”

There are 24 on the roster and Kleber said Trinity will play some junior varsity games.

The Cougars were 9-18 last spring.

“I think a lot of it is going to be pitching,” Kleber said concerning improvement. “Guys have really seemed to hone in on throwing strikes and we’ve just got to put the ball in play, not strike out so much and make things happen when we get on the bases.”