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2014 Baseball Preview: Mt. Vernon

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Head coach: Scott Johnson, second season

2013: 18-11 overall, 8-6 Hoosier Heritage Conference. Lost 4-3 to Guerin Catholic in 3A Sectional 26 semifinal.

Last sectional title: 2011

Key losses: 2013 Hancock County Co-Player of the Year OF Troy Montgomery (.466/5 HR/39 R/ 29 SB) took his talents to Ohio State. Also lost to graduation were 3B/P Seth Gohring (.309/18 RBI/17 R/6-3/2.68 ERA), who joined Montgomery on the All-County and All-HHC teams, and C Nick Gwinn (.281), an All-HHC and All-County Honorable Mention.

Outlook: Among the top seven Mt. Vernon hurlers in innings pitched last year, five return: Andrew Boyle (26.2 IP/3-1/5.77 ERA), Wyatt Wills (25.2 IP/2-2/1.36 ERA), James Stricker (19.1 IP/1-0/1.09 ERA), Joey Turner (19 IP/2-0/2.58 ERA) and Zach Spears (13 IP/2-1/3.77 ERA). Junior Nathanael Lash was hindered by arm trouble in 2013, but he’ll be on the mound this spring, along with sophomore Kennedy Parker. ... The pitching depth should aid the Marauders as they compete as a 4A baseball program for the first time; they’re slotted into Sectional 9 with defending champ Greenfield-Central, fellow HHC squad Pendleton Heights, perennial contender New Castle and others. MV’s previous 3A sectional included Brebeuf, which captured its sixth-straight tourney last season, beating Guerin in the sectional championship game. ... On offense, junior 2B Christian Smith (.246) and sophomore SS Noah Powell (.270) will be at the top of the MV batting order. CF Zach Norman, Turner (RF when not pitching) and 1B Tyler Langdon – all seniors – will form the heart of the order. Turner (.303/23 RBI/9 2B) made the All-HHC Team last season, while Langdon (.250) and Norman (.287/21 RBI/10 SB/27 R/4 3B) were All-HHC Honorable Mention. Senior 3B Alex McMillan (.267), junior C Michael Cripe, sophomore C/OF Wyatt Vestal, Lash (OF) and Boyle (OF) will also be integral to the lineup. 

Johnson says: “I definitely believe that pitching will be our strength this year. I’ve got seven guys that I have complete and total confidence in, and that means for both conference and non-conference games. Never in 19 years of being a head coach have I had this kind of depth.”

“Nathanael didn’t get to pitch for us at all last year, but his arm is feeling solid. So, I’m real excited about what he brings to the pitching rotation for us. And Kennedy, he’s the only sophomore of the bunch, but he does a real nice job of throwing strikes and keeping the ball low. He’s going to be a solid addition to our pitching staff. We’ve got five lefties and two righties (Parker and Stricker) and all of them can get the job done.”

“If we’re going to win games, it’s going to be because of our pitching and defense. Our offense is in need of help and it’s going to take everybody buying into what we’re trying to teach. And right now, quite frankly, that’s not happening. We have a two-strike hitting approach that guys are not using; not everybody, but we’ve got some guys that need to start doing what we want when it comes to our offensive philosophy.”

“That 3A sectional was so tough, I’m not sure there’s much of a difference between what we used to have and what we’re in right now. I just don’t see it being much different when it comes to the competition level. Our approach is very simple, and it’s cliché, but we’re going to look at every single game as a quiz and at the end of the year we have a big test, and that’s our sectional.”

Opening Day: The Marauders travel to Yorktown Saturday for a HHC twinbill.

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