Decatur Central’s baseball seniors are (from left) Dallas Fredricks, Semaj Owens, Duane Alexander, Brayden Coffey, Alex Brawley and Kaden Barr. Not pictured: Rui Suzuki.
By Steve Page
A year ago, Sean Winkelseth and his coaches were just trying to fill gaps.
Ten seniors had graduated from the Decatur Central baseball program, leaving voids.
As a result, the youthful Hawks finished fifth in the Mid-State Conference at 7-7; they were 11-11-1 overall.
Consider those gaps all but filled as the Hawks launch their 2022-23 season.
“We’re excited,” Winkelseth said during a recent practice at the Phil Webster Baseball Complex. “This is the first year everybody in the program has played for this current coaching staff.”
That staff includes Nick Jenkins, Alan Curry, his brother Brandon Curry, Harmon Cooper and Noah Klick.
“We have a good mix of ages and classes,” said Winkelseth, now entering his third full season and fourth overall – one was the Covid season. “We have seven seniors, two juniors, four sophomores and three freshmen – a good mix.”
The mix starts at the top.
Winkelseth provided a look at some of the key players.
“Senior Kaden Barr was our best pitcher last year and hit over .400,” the coach said. “He’s a returning captain. We’re looking for leadership on the mound and at the plate.”
Barr batted .407 with 11 RBIs, a .555 slugging percentage and a .477 on-base percentage, good for fifth in the MSC.
On the mound, he went 1-1, with a 1.22 ERA (fourth in the MSC) in 12 appearances. Barr registered two saves, with 37 strikeouts in 39-2/3 innings.
“Brayden Coffey Is a returning senior,” Winkelseth said. “He has all-around leadership. He’s our shortstop, our best defensive player. He will hit at the top of the lineup. He’s our catalyst. We go as he goes.”
Coffey batted .279 last season with 12 RBI’s, a .426 slugging percentage, 18 stolen bases (fifth in the MSC), and a .440 on-base percentage.
On the mound, Coffey went 3-3 with a 3.95 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 33-2/3 innings.
“We have three seniors already committed,” Winkelseth said. “Barr and our starting catcher, Alex Brawley, are going to IUPU Columbus together. Coffey is going to IU Kokomo.
Brawley compiled a .980 fielding percentage last year with 43 putouts, 6 assists, and just one error.
“Another key is Garret Smith,” Winkelseth continued. “He’s our returning starter at third base. He hit in the middle of the lineup last year. He’s consistent, consistent on defense and offense.”
As a sophomore, Smith batted .250 with 10 RBI’s. He committed just four errors in 59 chances for a fielding percentage of .833.
The coach also cited a couple of newcomers.
“Bo Polston is a freshman,” Winkelseth said. “He’s already taken DI visits for football. We’re looking for him to be a key at the plate.
In splitting time with Coffey at quarterback last fall, Polston completed 122 of 229 passes for 1,683 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also rushed 93 times for 347 yards and three more touchdowns.
“Logan Markus is a freshman. He’s on a team with Polston playing travel ball. He will be a middle-lineup hitter. We look for him to contribute.
“Our young guys are picking up their style of play. They’re all picking it up, so good stuff happens.”
The overall outlook remains the same, according to Winkelseth, who said, “We have our three pillars for everything: The name on the front (of the jerseys), baseball leadership, graduate – and win.
“We’re looking at their second year of 200 community service hours. We ran free clinics for the little league coaches. We’re cleaning up the little league fields.
“We’re trying to grow the overall program, not just baseball.”
They’re also trying to grow the schedule, in addition to their Mid-State games.
“We start with Perry, then our rivalry with Mooresville right after that,” Winkelseth noted. “We have a tough schedule. We made it that way. We’re also playing Columbus North, McCutcheon, Avon, and Brownsburg.
“Mooresville is a big rival. There’s a lot of talent in the conference this year. We’re looking forward to it.”
The Pioneers won the MSC last year at 13-1, followed by Franklin 10-4, Martinsville and Perry 8-6, DC 7-7, Whiteland 5-9, Greenwood 3-11 and Plainfield 2-12. The conference uses a Tuesday-Wednesday schedule of home-and-home games.
“I like the home-and-home series, back to back,” Winkelseth said. “That upgrades the level of play and creates animosity. We play one game, then 24 hours later, we’re back after it: ‘Let’s go, boys!’”
The Hawks open MSC play by hosting Perry Meridian at 5:30 p.m. April 4, then travel to the Falcons’ field at the same time April 5.
After hosting Columbus North at 5:30 p.m. April 7, the Hawks return to MSC play and renew the Battle of Ind. 67 rivalry by hosting Mooresville on April 11, then by traveling to the Pioneers’ field the next day, with both games starting at 5:30.
Winkelseth smiled at the thought, and said, “We’re ready to get going.”
Decatur Central catcher Alex Brawley waits to apply the tag to Semaj Owens during preseason practice.
The shortstop fires a strike to the plate to get the baserunner.
DC coach Sean Winkelseth meets with his players on the mound during a recent practice session at the Phil Webster Baseball Complex.
The third baseman catches the baserunner in a rundown while the shortstop moves over to back up the practice play.