Eastern Hancock baseball expecting more in 2024

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Eastern Hancock’s Chase Stewart slides safely back to first against Scecina.

Tom Russo | Daily Reporter

CHARLOTTESVILLE — Last year was a stepping stone for the Eastern Hancock baseball program.

The Royals were 10-15 overall, 3-5 in the Mid-Eastern Conference and lost their sectional opener.

With one senior and seven freshmen who were regularly in the lineup, they weren’t expecting much.

“We looked at last year and knew that we were going to struggle at points. We were trying to find the aspect of the season that we were looking to build upon this season and for the seasons to come,” Eastern Hancock head coach Chad Coughenour said. “Nothing against our only senior CJ [Titara], he’s a great young man and a great ballplayer, but as a team, we knew we weren’t ready. We really used last year to get them ready for this year.”

This year, those expectations are much higher.

“Now we’re expecting a lot. We only lost the one senior, we got a senior back who was hurt all of last year, and that sophomore group got a year of experience,” Coughenour said. “It’s the most excited they’ve been in a while, and the boys are ready to get after it.”

The Royals enter this season with a larger senior class, a sophomore group with a year of high school baseball under their belts and a lone freshman that is expected to contribute right away.

“The good thing about this year is we have a lot of interchangeable parts,” Coughenour said. “A lot of people can move a lot of different places.”

Leading the way are seniors Chase Stewart and Colton Dishman.

Stewart was the only player on last year’s team to make the all-conference and All-Hancock County teams and was both the team’s top hitter and pitcher.

At the plate, the Trine University commit led the Royals in RBI (22), doubles (9), triples (3) and on-base percentage (.480). He was tied for the team lead in hits (31) and runs (25) with Dishman, and was second to Dishman with a .373 batting average.

Along with being tied for the team lead in hits and runs, Dishman had a team-high batting average of .378 and stole 28 bases in 31 attempts.

“They’re our table setters. They hit one and two in the order for us and they’re a big part of our team leadership. The team goes as they go. It’s one of those things where they not only lead on the ballfield, they lead off. They bring everybody together,” Coughenour said. “The good thing about them is that they both trust the people around them. They don’t expect to do it all and know they can rely on the people around them to do their job too.”

While the pair led at the plate, it was Stewart who led the Royals on the mound. He finished the year 3-4 with a 5.57 earned run average. He struck out 44 batters over 43 innings of work.

Making up the Royals rotation along with Stewart will be sophomores Hayden Rouse, Aiden Morris, Caleb Retherford and freshman Gavin Jenkins.

Retherford threw 21.2 innings last season, Rouse threw 20 and Morris threw 19. Retherford matched Stewart with the team lead in wins with a 3-1 record.

“That’s our rotation as we go through the season. They’ve thrown well in the spring,” Coughenour said. “We’ve gotten a lot of innings in against live batters, so they’re looking pretty good. If we can throw strikes I think we’ll be pretty decent.”

Rounding out the strong senior class along with Stewart and Dishman are Brayden Sullivan who missed most of last season with an injury, Carson Borden, Gavin Scroggins and Wyatt Arnold.

Borden appeared in 21 games and Scroggins played in 16 games for the team last year.

Making up the majority of the Royals lineup though will be sophomores who saw ample playing time as freshmen.

The sophomore pitchers — Retherford, Rouse and Morris — along with Conner Wittgren, Austin Brown, Luke Fletcher and Jalen Helderbrand are expected to be key contributors.

Rouse was third on the team in RBI (12) last season, Helderbrand was third in runs scored (16), and all but Morris played in over 20 games.

“We talk all the time about slowing the game down. When you’re younger the game moves really fast and they’re at a point right now where they’ve let the game slow down a bit,” Coughenour said. “They’re more comfortable offensively, defensively and on the base paths.”

Jenkins, the team’s only freshman, is expected to contribute both offensively and on the mound right away.

“He’s a lefty and throws the ball really well. He’s a good ball player and will hit towards the middle of the lineup for us,” Coughenour said. “He’s going to be a good addition.”

Rounding out the lineup is junior Wyatt Walker.

The Royals opened the season last weekend in Tennessee where they went 1-3. They begin the Indiana portion of their schedule Tuesday, April 9 on the road at Monroe Central.

2024 Eastern Hancock Baseball Schedule

Date;Opponent;Time

March 28;Huntland*;L/0-5

March 29;at Community*;W/9-7

March 29;Cornersville*;L/4-9

March 30;Richland*;L/6-7

April 9;at Monroe Central;5:30 p.m.

April 11;vs. Cowan;5:30 p.m.

April 13;at Knightstown;10 a.m.

April 16;at Blue River Valley;5:30 p.m.

April 17;at Lapel;5:30 p.m.

April 18;vs. Wapahani;5:30 p.m.

April 20;vs. Triton Central;10 a.m.

April 23;at Daleville;5:30 p.m.

April 24;at Anderson Prep;5:30 p.m.

April 25;vs. Randolph Southern;5:30 p.m.

April 26;vs. Tri;5:30 p.m.

April 29;vs. Frankton;5:30 p.m.

May 1;vs. Shenandoah;5:30 p.m.

May 4;at Heritage Christian;10 a.m.

May 6;at Seton Catholic;5:30 p.m.

May 7;at Morristown;5:30 p.m.

May 9;vs. Scecina;5:30 p.m.

May 13;at Northeastern;5:30 p.m.

May 14;at Wes-Del;5:30 p.m.

May 16;vs. Muncie Burris;5:30 p.m.

May 18;vs. Blackford;10 a.m.

May 21;at Hauser;5:30 p.m.

* at tournament in Tennessee