The departure of three key seniors will have the 2016 Perry baseball team hoping the replacement parts can function at something near the level of the players whose places they are taking.
The defense was spectacular at times, but far too often proved erratic, a key component in the team finishing 15-16 overall. Perry committed 82 errors in 31 games, yielding 53 unearned runs out of the 176 tallies the team allowed.
The Bluejay pitching staff struck out 159 batters in 196.1 innings but issued 142 walks, with the free passes offsetting an opponent batting average of just .194 and helping lead to a staff ERA of 4.59.
The Jays were 10-4 through the first half of the regular season but stumbled down the stretch, finishing 4-11 in the second half. Perry topped Webster City, 2-0, in the first round of the playoffs before falling, 5-1, to host Boone in the second round.
As a team Perry scored 140 runs on 182 hits while batting .246 and slugging .322 on 31 doubles, two triples and seven home runs. Bluejay base runners swiped 66-of-75 bases, with 41 of those thefts from since-graduated seniors. The team drew 90 walks but struck out 139 times.
Kyle Nevitt hit .333 and tied for the team lead with 29 hits while Janier Puente also returns after batting .294 with six doubles, a triple and three homers among his 20 hits. Puente’s 18 RBIs are tops among returning players.
Experienced seniors Kade VanKirk and Alex Long will be looked to for leadership, with Adan Medina also returning with plenty of playing time earned last summer.
While replacing solid and veteran catcher Zach Roberts will be key, it is on the mound that Perry will be tested.
Nevitt (3-3, 5.29 ERA) is the lead returning hurler, with Long (1-3, 4.47 ERA) and Puente (0-4, 5.32 ERA) likely to see plenty of time on the hill. Nevitt threw 39.2 innings last year, Long 31.1 and Puente 26.1.
The Bluejays open their season at Progressive Field tonight against North Polk at 5 p.m.