FORTVILLE — An experienced Mt. Vernon team enters 2023 with a chance to make history.
With back to back 12-2 Hoosier Heritage Conference seasons, the Marauders have won more HHC titles in the past two years than they had in the rest of the school’s history.
With school history already made, the Marauders turn their attention towards making HHC history.
Past teams have won the HHC title three consecutive years, but never in an outright fashion each time. This season, the Marauders look to become the first.
“One of our goals is to win another conference championship. The school had only won one coming into a few years ago, and we’ve won two in a row outright, so we really want to get that third,” Mt. Vernon head coach Brad King said. “There’s been teams in the HHC who have won three in a row, but never a team that has won three straight outright, so that’s a goal we want to try and accomplish.”
An integral part of the Marauders semi-state run two seasons ago, and the HHC title last season, was pitcher/shortstop Eli Bridenthal. Now in his senior season, the Xavier University commit once again looks to be the catalyst to another successful Mt. Vernon season.
Last season, Bridenthal led the Marauders in hits (29), runs (26), steals (22), and batted .354 with 14 RBI. But as good as he is at the plate, on the mound is where he really shines. A 5-0 record, 1.59 ERA, and 69 strikeouts were all tops for Mt. Vernon, and his .189 batting average against was second on the team.
“Eli is one of the best seniors in the state. He’s been recognized already a few times this preseason. He’s just an intricate part of what we do,” King said. “He was our starting shortstop as a sophomore when we went to the Final Four, the kid’s just a winner, and it shows with every team he’s been involved with whether baseball, football or basketball. They’ve all had success.”
While Bridenthal is set to be the ace of the Mt. Vernon staff, it’s a pitching staff that is primed to be deep and dominant across the board.
Senior Joseph Wilson who pitched in a number of conference games last season is back, as is junior Nick Heitman who will look to take on a bigger role, and Cam Sullivan, who didn’t pitch last year but is a University of Notre Dame commit, rounds out the Mt. Vernon starters.
Out of the bullpen, the Marauders will throw juniors Nathan Criss and Jack Peine and senior Keenan Augustinovicz.
“This pitching staff is probably going to be the best staff that I’ve ever had, and this will be my 20th year as a head coach. I think it should be one of the top in the state,” King said. “We’ve got Eli as one of our main cogs, but three of our guys touch 90, so we’ve got really good starting pitching. We’ve got some arms, and pitching and defense is going to be what gives us success.”
Criss, who had a 5.32 ERA and struck out 30 batters in 25 innings last season, will anchor the Marauder bullpen in the late innings.
“Nathan pitched big innings for us last year, and he’s looking to take that same closer role,” King said. “He’s just got a bulldog mentality, and pitched in a lot of big conference games for us last season.”
While King believes his pitching staff is set up for a big season, the loss of eight seniors has done little to slow down the returning offensive production in the Mt. Vernon lineup.
Along with Bridenthal, the Marauders bring back either starters or platoon guys at every position.
Outside of catcher, the infield will be manned by a group of seniors that each hit for over .300 last season. Anderson University commit Russell Weaver (.362) returns to play third base, Wabash College commit Gavin Johnston (.343) will be at second base, IU-Southeast commit Konnor Scheidt (.314) will play first base, and Bridenthal (.354) will play shortstop when not on the pitching mound. Scheidt also led the team with three home runs and 26 RBI.
Junior Devon Scheumann — a Ball State commit — who split time at catcher last season is set to be the Marauders main backstop this year, while Criss and Wilson are set to play the outfield when not pitching.
Along with all the returners, the Marauders add the top hitter on the junior varsity team last season, Grant Payson, who will see time behind the plate, as well as transfer Will Jacobs who will add depth at both outfield and first base.
“We have quite a few starters back, so we really do have some experience,” King said. “Since I’ve been at Mt. Vernon, and it kind of sounds cliché, but it’s just a next man up mentality. That’s kind of how we go about doing things.”
Along with trying to win a third straight HHC outright title, the Marauders will look to win their second sectional title in three years and avenge a 13-7 sectional championship loss to Anderson last season.
“We want to get to that 20-win mark, and definitely just want to win that sectional championship and just continue to play as long as we can,” King said. “Some of these guys did experience that Final Four run a few years ago, and I think they’re hungry to try and repeat that. Any time you’ve got a competitive group, you just strive to play as long as you can.”
2023 Mt. Vernon Baseball Schedule
April 3;vs. Franklin Central;6 p.m.
April 4;vs. Delta;6 p.m.
April 5;at Delta;6 p.m.
April 8;at Fishers;11 a.m.
April 8;at Fishers;1 p.m.
April 11;vs. Shelbyville;6 p.m.
April 12;at Shelbyville;6 p.m.
April 15;vs. Harrison;11 a.m.
April 15;vs. Harrison;1:30 p.m.
April 18;at New Palestine;6 p.m.
April 19; vs. New Palestine;6 p.m.
April 20;vs. Hamilton Southeastern;6 p.m.
April 24;at Anderson;6 p.m.
April 25;vs. Pendleton Heights;6 p.m.
April 26;at Pendleton Heights;6 p.m.
May 1;vs. Brebeuf Jesuit;5:30 p.m.
May2;at New Castle;6 p.m.
May 3;vs. New Castle;6 p.m.
May 4;at Center Grove;6 p.m.
May 9;at Greenfield-Central;6 p.m.
May 10;vs. Greenfield-Central;6 p.m.
May 13;at Bloomington North;10 a.m.
May 15;at Carmel;6 p.m.
May 16;at Yorktown;6 p.m.
May 17;vs. Yorktown;6 p.m.
May 20;at BNL Invitational (DH);1 p.m.