The Voice's preview for Southside baseball teams
Senior staff writer
Roncalli is at the head of the class among Southside baseball teams with Center Grove, Greenwood and Franklin Central looking for key replacements for a late-season run.
Perry Meridian coach John Carpenter acknowledges, “Roncalli is loaded.”
Rebels first-year coach Aaron Kroll has seven .300-plus hitters back plus a deep pitching staff. The team has lofty goals and will host 4A Sectional 10, which features Cathedral and Lawrence Central.
Beech Grove’s defending 3A sectional champions reload with less pitching and less hitting after graduating 11 seniors.
In Class A, Lutheran has the potential for a second straight 20-plus win season with upstart Greenwood Christian Academy trying for its second consecutive sectional trophy.
Perry Meridian, Southport and Manual continue to rebuild.
Kroll becomes the third coach in three seasons at Roncalli. He moves from Ben Davis after seven seasons and coaching the Giants to a 4A sectional championship last year. The Rebels have an all-new coaching staff that includes former Perry Meridian mentor Mark Pieper.
Aaron Carroll, a former two-year junior varsity coach at North Davies High School, enters his first varsity season at Manual with three returnees. Carroll played four years at Evansville Rivet and at Benedictine College. He is a second lieutenant in the Indiana National Guard
Southport and Greenwood are traveling in the south this week.
The Cards are in a three-day tourney that starts Thursday in Grayson County, Ky., and plan on visiting the University of Louisville.
“This gives the guys a chance to grow together as a team,” Southport coach Scott Whitlock said. “They don’t get a chance to go to Florida so this gets them away from home for a while.”
Greenwood goes to Ensworth and Hillsboro, Tenn., and Warren County, Ky. The Woodmen plan on visiting Vanderbilt and Belmont universities. “It’s all about our team coming together, starting to play as a team and becoming one,” coach Andy Bass said. “We’ll get a good look at some of our players.”
Here’s a team-by-team outlook with class affiliation and last year’s record:
Beech Grove (3A, 9-13)
Coach Walters’ comments: “Some of the seniors have won two sectionals in three years. We need time on the diamond. We have 11 seniors, but we will use a lot of different line-ups to see who can really contribute. We have a lot of singles-type hitters, so we’ll play a lot of small-ball this year. We do have better speed. Hopefully, we will come along like we did last year and jell in the last two weeks of the season.”
Center Grove (4A, 18-10)
Coach Hatfield’s comments: “We lost a lot of experience on the mound, and we lost power, which will be hard to replace. Our juniors this year should have been starters last year, but with our seniors there just wasn’t any room for them. The conference will be very tough for us because of our pitching (lack of depth) and inexperience at the plate. We’ll be fast. We need to play solid D. We expect good things to happen. We’ll have some fun.”
Franklin Central (4A, 21-16)
Rockey’s comments: “Our top strength will be defensively up the middle. If we can just find some depth in pitching we will be pretty competitive on a daily basis. I need to find two more arms with our juniors to hold the fort down. A lot of our kids are question marks as to how they will hit at the varsity level. We will be fast and have some kids on base who can fly. We should be able to get guys on base, do some running and get those kids in with clutch hitting. The way these kids react to varsity pitching will determine our season.”
Greenwood (4A, 6-15)
Coach Bass’ comments: “We did lose a lot due to graduation, but we feel good about the players we have back. They played quite a bit last year. We have some young arms that look good, but we’ll have to see how they progress. We lost seven games by one run last year, so we have to develop more consistency at the plate. We have depth at every position in the infield and behind the plate.”
Greenwood Christian (1A, 16-13)
Coach Doug Hagist comments: “This will be an interesting year. We graduated five seniors and lost some leadership. This team should be more talented; they are baseball kids; they are baseball minded. From a talent perspective, we are going to be even better than we were last year. We spent the offseason developing four more pitchers to go with Murray and Sparks. Last year I had to organize our big games so we could attack with those two on the mound. I have six pitchers that I have confidence in, and that’s a nice change of pace this year. We are in a new conference, and we play a much tougher schedule. That’s what we want. It will be a great challenge; we’ll be ready for the sectional again.”
Lutheran (1A, 21-18)
Coach Dick Alter’s comments: “We’re looking forward to a great season. We have so much returning depth. We have some kids who have some power and some who are just hitters. One through nine, we have people who can hit. We’re going to be very competitive. I cannot believe any other team in 1A has a more difficult schedule. We are the only 1A team in our conference, and we play a lot of good teams above our class. It makes us a much stronger team in the sectional.”
Manual (2A, 1-18)
Carroll’s comments: “We’ve had two weeks of conditioning and practices. I have some players with experience and some who haven’t played for a while. We will definitely work on fundamentals. I know there is a learning curve, but we will take the field wanting to win. We should be competitive in our class. Our issues will be pitching depth and fundamentals. We will take some bumps early. It’s all about the postseason.”
Perry Meridian (4A, 6-20)
Coach Carpenter’s comments: “There’s not an easy game on our schedule. We are still very young but hopefully we are one year better. I’m not sure yet where we are compared to last year. We saw some good and bad things in our intrasquad game. We’re not tremendously deep on the mound. We’re going to be leaning heavily on sophomores and juniors. We have a couple of freshmen who show promise. I’m going to have to exercise some patience and let the kids grow as they can so that at the end of May we are at our best.”
Roncalli (4A, 19-7)
Coach Kroll’s comments: “We’re definitely excited about the team. We return with nearly the entire team from last year, so we feel like the ceiling is high for us this year. We have enough pitchers for a good rotation with some really strong arms. We will be solid defensively up the middle. We definitely believe the guys in the middle of the line-up can hit with power. We plan to contend for the state championship. It is a lofty goal because we know our sectional is loaded with really good teams.”
Southport (4A, 7-19)
Coach Whitlock’s comments: “We graduated four of our five top hitters. We have a mixture of some veterans and some young players. We are experienced up the middle and in the outfield. We have to find a fourth starting pitcher and a new catcher. We need the guys at the bottom of the order to step up and get on base so we can get our short game going. We have to come up with ways to manipulate runs. We have a lot of young talent, but we need to wait for that talent to grow.”