With numerous players returning at many positions, veteran St. Clairsville baseball coach Tom Sliva is excited about his team's prospects for the upcoming season.
The Red Devils finished 10-16 a year ago and, to hear Sliva tell it, should be much improved, if only on simply having another year of experience under its belt.
''We will have a lot of competition at all positions,'' he said. ''One of our strengths should be our depth at most positions, especially pitching.''
PICTURED ARE the key returnees for the St. Clairsville baseball team. Front row, from left, are Luke Slavik, Branden Ducker, Cody Goletz and Brandon Carrothers. Middle, from left, are Dylan Busby, Michael Jacob, Lewis Mitchell, Daulton Freeman and Malik Gummer. Top, from left, Patrick Buchanan, Nathan Teater, Ryan Busby, Joel Giffin, Tommy Stewart and Ben Coleman.
The four senior returning letterwinners are Joel Giffin (DH-1B), Lewis Mitchell (2B), Nate Teater (3B) and Ben Coleman (P-OF).
''Joel led us in hitting with a .318 average and 13 RBI,'' Sliva said, noting Mitchell walked a team-best 16 times.
Teater will compete and third, while Coleman will compete in the outfield and for the closer roll.
Juniors back in the fold are Ryan Busby (P-OF), Daulton Freeman (OF), Malik Gummer (CF) and Michael Jacob (P-1B).
Busby battled knee problems a year ago en route to hitting .333, while Freeman batted .260.
Gummer hit .314 with four doubles, while ''Zuke'' had 10 RBI.
'''Zuke' was 5-1 with 70 strikeouts in 46-plus innings and an ERA of 0.60,'' Sliva said of Jacobs.
Patrick Buchanan (SS), Dylan Busby (3B), Branden Ducker (P-OF), Luke Slavik (C) and Brandon Carrothers (P-OF) are the sophomores.
Carrothers racked up two varsity wins as a freshman and pitched a little more than 40 innings with a 3.44 ERA. He's in the running to be one of the Red Devils' top two pitchers.
''Several sophomores received a lot of playing time and experience last year as freshmen,'' Sliva said.
Tyler Blomquist (P-IF) and Cody Goletz (P-OF), both sophomores, played varsity last year and should be in the mix again this year.
''Tyler had a varsity win as a freshman and will compete as a pitcher and position player,'' Sliva said. ''Cody threw 10 varsity innings and had 12 strikeouts.''
Others who will compete this season for both varsity and reserve playing time are: juniors Zach Dopkiss (P-OF), Alex Gazdik (P-OF) and Tommy Stewart (P-IF), sophomores Dillon Ketter (P-C-OF), Kyle Kyer (IF) and Christian Witchey (1B). The freshmen are Zac Clark (IF), Frankie Favede (P-C-IF), Austin Herman (1B-3B), Gage Cuiksa (OF), Justin Lane (OF-IF), Joey Maroon (OF), Joel Porter (OF) and Donte Vincenzo (C-OF-P).
''We have a good mix of upperclassmen and sophomores competing for any positions,'' Sliva said. ''We should have good senior leadership.
''With good, quality leadership, and the experience we gained last year, we are looking to be competitive every game.''
Sliva, 10 victories shy of 300 (290-139) as a varsity head coach, is assisted by Adam Vincenzo and Casey Tennant.
St. Clairsville's schedule is as follows.
All games are 5 p.m. unless noted.
March 31 - at Union Local; April 1 - Wheeling Central; April 2 - Union Local; April 4 - Indian Creek; April 5 - at Buckeye Trail (DH), Noon; April 7 - at Indian Creek; April 8 - Steubenville; April 9 - Bellaire; April 11 - at Bellaire; April 14 - at Edison; April 15 - University (at Consol Energy Park), 7 p.m.; April 16 - Edison; April 19 - Buckeye Local (DH), Noon; April 21 - at Martins Ferry; April 22 - Wheeling Central, 6 p.m.; April 23 - Martins Ferry; April 25 - at Harrison Central; April 28 - Harrison Central; April 29 - Philo; April 30 - Wheeling Park; May 6 - Barnesville; May 7 - at Wheeling Park; May 8 - at Steubenville