The Hartville Eagles baseball team found themselves in a position last season that they had not seen in a few years when they ended with a 13-10 overall record that included a finish in the middle of the pack of a tough Summit Conference and an early exit in the district tournament.
This season may not be any easier for an Eagles team that lost eight seniors from last year, including their top two starting pitchers. Even with last seasons’ results, it was no run-of-the-mill graduating class either, as many of them won three of their four district title opportunities throughout their high school careers.
But that doesn’t mean they don’t have their goals set high.
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“This year’s team is totally different from last in that we have a lot of newcomers to the team that are gaining their first varsity experience,” said Hartville head coach Joe Garrison, who begins his 14th year at the helm. “They still feel like they have something to prove every day, and they have seen what it takes to achieve their goals. I look for us to work hard to get better each day and who knows what we can become.”
Returning starters for the Eagles this season are senior second baseman Grant Dedmon and junior Jace Keith. An All-District selection from last season, the Eagles will rely on Dedmon to lead the way.
“Grant is our team leader and handles the bat pretty well,” said Garrison. “He led our team in many hitting categories last spring, and we are going to lean on him pretty hard again.”
Keith will also be looked upon after starting a number of games in the outfield as well as some experience on the pitcher’s mound.
“Jace brings back some experience from last year and has shown some toughness on the mound,” Garrison said.
Even though the Eagles lost eight starters from last year, Hartville returns a good core of juniors who are ready to step in and fill the void as well.
Along with Keith, those juniors who are expected to make an impact this year include Deric Jones, Broc Arnall, James Schmidt, Hagan Simmons, Braden Keith, Ethan Deckard and Logan Pyatt.
Even though the Eagles will be without a strong core from last season, they have a number of players who have been patiently waiting in the wings to take the next step to the varsity squad.
They are now getting their opportunity.
“I am looking forward to finding key players that come out and surprise us with abilities and qualities as a player they haven’t had the opportunity to display,” Garrison said. I think one of our team strengths is knowing that we have to prove ourselves each day in order to compete. We can’t get complacent at any time. We did show signs of being able to win a few close games this fall, and, hopefully, we build on that experience.”
The Hartville Eagles begin their season on March 21 when they travel to Seymour to take on the Tigers.