GRANGER — The seniors on this summer’s Woodward-Granger baseball team were all eighth graders when head coach Eric Evans became the new Hawk head coach, a point the skipper was quick to make.
“These guys lived through a tough first season (7-15) but stuck it out and have been here as we have started to build something good,” Evans said. “It would be great if we could reward them with a good season and I am confident that we can.”
W-G was 13-16 overall last year and finished 9-9 in West Central Conference play. Only two seniors were lost from that squad, leaving Evans feeling positive about what might lie ahead.
“We will have a lot of guys with varsity experience out there,” he said. “We do not have the big boppers in the lineup, but we play in a big park and were always going to focus on our speed and on putting pressure on the defense anyway.”
The Hawks hit just two home runs and six triples last year but did come up with 25 doubles while hitting .277 as a team. Aggressive on the bases, W-G was 103-of-127 (81 percent) on stolen base attempts.
The team struck out 192 times and collected just 84 walks, numbers Evans hopes will improve.
“That is too many strikeouts,” he said flatly. “Part of that is being aggressive, and as long as it is good pitches we are going after I don’t have a problem with that, but a few more walks would mean a few more base runners and we will need to get men on base.”
The pitching staff had an ERA of 4.25 last year and while allowing 187 runs, nearly 40 percent of those runs were unearned. Those defensive lapses and 147 walks issued in 186 innings offset an opponents average of just .206 by putting pressure on the defense.
“We are not going to blow anyone away on the mound, so we have to be sharp on defense — it really is as simple as that,” Evans said. “I expect us to be better in almost every place in the field and I think we will see a difference right away if we are.”
All-district pick Alex Bodermann and fellow senior Dylan Garland will lead the rotation, with sophomore Brady Aunspach also to be handed the ball. Seniors Ben Krehbiel and Ryan Renshaw will also see duties on the hill, as will junior Jackson Larson. Senior catcher Michael Connor could see duties in short relief.
Bodermann, Race Brant and Krehbiel are the main choices in the outfield from left-to-right, with Logan Lande at third base and Aunspach at shortstop while Marcus McConahay is the lead candidate at second base and Mason Burkhart at first.
As always, players will shift depending upon who is toeing the rubber. That will create playing time opportunities for several players, including Austin Scharlau, Tre Loge, Jordan Pierce and Ryan Hodges.
“We have 10 seniors out, eight of whom were with me as eighth graders,” Evans said. “Some of them have been biding their time but most have plenty of experience and now it is time for all their hard work to pay off.
“This could be some of the best speed we have had, and I think our pitching and defense will be much improved,” the coach concluded. “I am eager to get going and see what these guys can do.”