Team: Mt. Vernon
Coach: Ryan Carr, 2nd season
2015 record: 15-13
2015 results: 9-5 in Hoosier Heritage Conference, lost 3-2 in the first round of sectional against Pendleton Heights
Story continues below gallery
Key losses: Christian Smith, Zach Spears, Michael Cripe, Mason Rapp, Nathanael Lash
Braydon Augustinovicz, Junior, C
Brandon Turner, Senior, 1B
Mitch McCarthy, Junior, 1B/P
Bryce Robbins, Senior, 2B
Ryan Beck, Junior, 3B/P
Noah Powell, Senior, SS
Sam McNeely, Senior, LF
Tyler Franklin, Senior, CF
Wyatt Vestal, Senior, RF
Travis Mason, Senior, DH
Zach Roach, Junior, OF
Luke Smoot, Junior, C/3B
Kennedy Parker, Senior, P
Caleb Rush, Sophomore, P
Cole Cain, Sophomore, OF/P
FORTVILLE — Ryan Carr knows how important winning is to a baseball team’s psyche.
Two years ago, before he replaced Scott Johnson as the head coach at Mt. Vernon last season, the former Manchester University standout witnessed its significance firsthand at Indianapolis Manual.
There, Carr resurrected a dormant baseball program, literally from scratch.
The Redskins, who didn’t field a team the season prior, lost so many times in 2014, Carr jokingly said he wiped most of those specifics from his memory.
But he remembers one game, and for reasons other than the obvious.
“We won one game when I was at Manual, 10-0, against John Marshall,” Carr recalled. “It was funny because our kids didn’t even know you could win by run-rule. They’d been beaten by it, but they really had no idea.
“It was in the (Indianapolis) City Tournament, and for winning we earned the right to play Cathedral, which you know, but that win was big.”
Though only one victory, it spoke loudly of his former players’ commitment to staying the course, Carr noted, and rewarded them for it.
While in a vastly different situation these days in Fortville, Carr still appreciates that moment, and despite his recent geographic change his philosophy remains unfazed.
When his team takes the field, he’s advocating three mantras: Work hard, don’t give up and believe.
The wins, he said, will take care of themselves.
In just his second year, Carr’s Marauders have proven more than capable of the first two. As for the third, he’s taking it upon himself to set the example.
The fifth coach in six years at Mt. Vernon, Carr’s primary goal from the first day has been providing stability after the coaching carousel spun through the likes of Mike Gibson (2004-10), Eric Nelson (2011), Dustin Glant (2012) and Johnson (2013-14).
By dedicating himself to the program, trust and chemistry has developed rapidly.
“Honestly, last year was tough because our seniors had been told so many different things by so many different coaches, and it was kind of hard to get everyone on the same page,” Carr said. “This year, everything is a lot crisper. Everyone is speaking the same baseball language, and everybody knows my expectations.”
They also understand the challenge ahead, namely replacing Zach Spears, their all-conference ace who is now at Miami (Ohio).
In the offseason, the Marauders lost seven seniors overall and three full-time starters, but Spears is the biggest.
At 6-2 last year, the hard-throwing left-hander started nearly every crucial Hoosier Heritage Conference game and was vital to the team’s runner-up finish in the standings at 9-5.
He was Hancock County’s strikeout leader with 76 in 45 innings pitched and carried a 3.11 ERA. At the plate, Spears blasted half of the Marauders 10 home runs to go with a .337 batting average, seven doubles and 23 RBIs.
“It’s really tough when you lose someone like Spears. Coming into my first year, especially in a conference as competitive as ours, to be able to throw Zach out there in Game 1 and let it happen, was a luxury,” Carr said. “There’s no way to replace a 6-foot-6 lefty that touches 90 mph at the high school level.”
The Marauders don’t plan to. Instead, depth and year-round determination to build off last season’s 15-13 record will help them turn the page along with a solid core group of eight seniors.
Atop the list and the batting order is Noah Powell, a St. Joseph’s College recruit, who returns as the Marauders’ best hitter and speed threat.
A two-time all-conference selection, Powell sported a .432 batting average with 17 RBIs and set the table by converting 22-of-22 steal attempts.
Not far behind is Tyler Franklin in center field. As a junior, the multi-sport athlete hit .329 and drove in 11 runners while fellow outfielder Wyatt Vestal had 17 RBIs.
Newcomer Bryce Robbins, a senior, will attempt to fill the shoes left behind by Christian Smith at second base.
Mainstays Ryan Beck, Brandon Turner, Sam McNeely and Travis Mason bring experience and leadership to the field.
Anderson University signee Kennedy Parker moves into the No. 1 spot in the rotation. The right-hander has reached the mid-80s with his fastball while mixing in a hard slider and a complimentary curveball.
In 38 innings pitched, Parker was 3-2 in four starts and 13 appearances. He racked up 35 strikeouts and had the team’s best ERA last year at 2.76.
“Kennedy got a lot of experience last season, and I’m very confident that he can step in and be a very solid No. 1 guy,” Carr said. “If it were up to him, he’d pitch every game. He’s got that kind of mentality you want.”
Beck, who was 2-0 in two starts last spring, is second in the rotation ahead of 6-foot-4 sophomore Caleb Rush and classmate Cole Cain.
Junior Mitch McCarthy is the staff’s lone lefty, going 1-2 with 21 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings last year. He will also see time at first base.
“Our offseason program went a lot better this year, and we had a lot more participation than we ever had before, so the guys all got a lot stronger.” Carr said. “They have put in the work. I’m confident they’ll be ready to go.”
The Marauders open the season 6 p.m. Tuesday at home against Southport.
April 5: vs. Southport, 6 p.m.
April 8: at Delta, 5:30 p.m.
April 11: vs. Lawrence Central, 5:30 p.m.
April 12: at Westfield, 5:30 p.m.
April 15: vs. Shelbyville, 5:30 p.m.
April 18: vs. Beech Grove, 5:30 p.m.
April 19: at Fishers, 6 p.m.
April 21: vs. New Palestine, 5 p.m.
April 22: at Decatur Central, 5:30 p.m.
April 25: vs. Anderson, 5:30 p.m.
April 29: at Pendleton Heights, 5:30 p.m.
May 2: vs. Guerin Catholic, 5:30 p.m.
May 3: vs. Shenandoah, 5:30 p.m.
May 5: vs. Muncie Central, 5:30 p.m.
May 6: at Hamilton Heights, 5:30 p.m.
May 7: at New Castle, 10 a.m.
May 9: vs. Connersville, 6 p.m.
May 13: vs. Greenfield-Central, 5:30 p.m.
May 16: vs. Carmel, 5:30 p.m.
May 20: at Yorktown, 5:30 p.m.