Strong nucleus has Royals in position to win

Team: Eastern Hancock

Coach: Chad Coughenour, 11th season

2015 record: 15-11

2015 results: 7-2 and third place in the Mid-Hoosier Conference. Lost in the first round of sectionals.

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Key losses: Cole Fout, Austin Clutinger, Devon Wagoner, Brandon Reid, Austin Lacy and David Johnson

Projected lineup

Garek Ferguson, Sr., CF

Devin Denny, Jr., RF/P

Tom Barton, Sr., P/1B/3B

Clayton White, Jr., P/1B/3B

Dwight Duzan, Sr., SS/P

Season outlook

CHARLOTTESVILLE — Eastern Hancock enters the season looking to replace six defensive starters and three pitchers from last season’s squad. The losses account for approximately half of the Royals’ plate appearances and half of the innings pitched, according to coach Chad Coughenour.

One key loss is pitcher/outfielder Austin Clutinger, who currently is playing at Trine University.

Coughenour admits he has yet to fill out a specific batting order, calling the lineup a “fluid situation” for the beginning of the season.

However, he did single out Garek Ferguson, Devin Denny, Tom Barton, Clayton White and Dwight Duzan, all of which he believes are capable of big things.

Barton and Ferguson are both three-year starters, while Denny and Duzan are both two-year starters. In addition, the Royals will lean on sophomore Addison True, who will see time on the mound and at second base, along with White.

“This strong nucleus will be counted on to lead and produce, as well as other projected starters,” Coughenour said.

Among those getting called up to fill some of the shoes left behind at the varsity level are Levi Majority, a junior left fielder; A.J. Muegge, a sophomore third baseman; and Jarrett Lewis, a sophomore catcher.

Coughenour also is expecting contributions out of Andrew Knoblock, a sophomore pitcher; Easton Fields, a sophomore catcher; and Payton Wilkinson, a sophomore utility player.

Anyone suspecting a drop-off in pitching could be mistaken, according to Coughenour.

“Arms should be good. Tom has been our ace for the past three seasons, and when he got hurt last year and missed the second half of the season, Clayton stepped in and threw well, including a perfect game,” the 11-year coaching mainstay said. “Devin Denny also threw well in a limited role as a reliever. Andrew Knoblock and A.J. Muegge saw a lot of action on the mound last year at JV.”

With a mix of veterans and new faces, the stakes are high for Eastern Hancock.

“We should, once again, be competing for the conference championship, as well as for a sectional title in our new alignment,” Coughenour said.

The Class 2A Royals will compete in Sectional 42 this postseason along with Heritage Christian, Indianapolis Broad Ripple, Indianapolis Howe, Irvington Preparatory Academy and Triton Central.

Eastern Hancock won its most recent sectional championship in 1975-76.

At a glance

Team Schedule

April 4: at Hagerstown, 5:30 p.m.

April 6: vs. Southwestern, 5:30 p.m.

April 9: vs. Shenandoah, 10 a.m.

April 13: at Hauser, 5:30 p.m.

April 14: at Centerville, 5 p.m.

April 16: at Knightstown, 10 a.m.

April 18: at Lapel, 5:30 p.m.

April 19: vs. Tri, 5:30 p.m.

April 22: at Morristown, 5:30 p.m.

April 23: vs. Triton Central, 10 a.m.

April 25: vs. Waldron, 5:30 p.m.

April 27: vs. Blue River Valley, 5:30 p.m.

April 28: vs. Heritage Christian, 5:30 p.m.

May 2: vs. Greenfield-Central, 5:30 p.m.

May 3: at Edinburgh, 5:30 p.m.

May 5: vs. Anderson Preparatory Academy, 5:30 p.m.

May 7: at Daleville, 10 a.m.

May 9: at Liberty Christian, 5 p.m.

May 11: at South Decatur, 5:30 p.m.

May 13: vs. North Decatur, 5:30 p.m.

May 14: at Frankton, 10 a.m.

May 16: at Northeastern, 5:30 p.m.

May 19: vs. Indian Creek, 5:30 p.m.

May 20: vs. Seton Catholic, 5:30 p.m.