The Tiger Baseball team looks to begin the defense of their state title this Friday when they play DeSales High School @ 6:00 on Friday at Saint X. In the upcoming weeks we will look at their individual opponents, but first let’s look at the Tiger Baseball Team and what we can expect from them this year.
The Tigers lost their two aces from last season, Daniel Fisher, who was named to the postseason All-American Team, and Adam Elliot, who was the State Tournament MVP. The two University of Louisville signees almost single-handedly led the Tigers to the State Title. They teamed up to pitch the Tigers to the State Championship Game, giving up 6 runs in 4 games with a team ERA (earned run average) of 1.80. Others who were lost to graduation include Eric Hasselwander, Sam Porta, and Brian O’Neil.
A Key Returner on the Pitching Staff is Connor Holden, who pitched the Tigers to their 2nd state title in 3 years, throwing a 3 hit shutout with 8 strikeouts in the Tigers’ 1-0 victory over Campbell County in the State Championship Game. The Murray State signee will be one of the top pitchers in the state this year. As the No.3 pitcher last year, Holden had a 2.12 ERA and 38 strikeouts on the year. Other returning pitchers include Sam Wilson, Sam Mudd, and Matthew Logsdon with the addition of juniors Henry Sadlo, Ryan Hamilton, Evan Burnett, and Andrew Littlefield. Sam Wilson notably was the designated closer for the Tigers, so look for him to expand that role.
The Tigers lose 3-year starter Dalton Dedas, who was the catcher on the 2014 and 2016 State Championship teams. He was a natural leader on the team, who was a reliable backstop and a threat at the plate.
Sophomore Cam Scheler and Junior Chase Patton are the two catchers on the Varsity Roster this season. Both have experience playing Varsity, as they played a few regular season games last year when Dedas was given a day off. Scheler will be remembered for hitting a walk off last postseason with the bases loaded. Scheler should provide some offensive firepower for the Tigers this year and will be in contention for a lot larger role this year.
Corner Infield (1st and 3rd Base)
The Tigers have lost both of their First Basemen from last season, Daniel Fisher and Nick Nelson, who was also the backup Catcher and could play Third Base, as well. The Infield is where the Tigers have lost the fewest amount of players.
Seniors Chris Esselman and Ryan Davis are 2 corner infielders returning from last year’s state championship team. Also, Senior Chase Collins, who was cut from the team junior year, is on the team and will play some 1st base. Juniors that are looking to vie for time in the corner infield include Bryce Elmore and Ryan Hamilton.
Ryan Davis was playing solid before an injury ended his season last year. In 59 at bats he was hitting .305. Look for Chase Collins to have a big year for the Tigers as well. After being cut his junior year, he has worked extremely hard just to get back on the field. It’s paid off, but he has a lot more to prove. Notably, as a freshman, Chase threw a no-hitter while his twin brother Zac (committed to Purdue as a punter) was behind the plate at catcher.
Arguably one of the most important positions in baseball, the Tigers lost their starting shortstop, Casey Simon, who hit a solo home run in the state title game to give Saint X its single run. Simon is the only middle infielder that has graduated, so expect the Tigers to be solid at these positions.
Seniors Chris Esselman and Zeke Porta are both returning players from last season’s team, as well as the edition of Juniors Trey Sweeney and Ryan Hamilton.
Even last year, Esselman had the prettiest swing on the Tigers roster. He is a pure contact guy, and batted .266 last year. Zeke Porta also looks to make a big leap for the Tigers last year after serving mostly as a pinch hitter last year.
Seniors Adam Eliott and Kurt Ramser were both lost to graduation, but Outfield looks to be a strong-suit for this years team.
Seniors Steven Mitchell, Tanner Brown, Sam Hedges, and Sam Mudd, as well as Junior Andrew Littlefield will make up the outfield for this years team.
Mitchell one of the fastest players on the team, which will do him well on the defensive side on the ball, but just as much on offense. Mitchell batted near the top of the lineup last year and batted .287 with 21 runs scored.
Don’t let Sam Mudd’s size fool you, because he has all the tools. He has a strong arm, capable of making the furthest throws from the outfield, paired with a big swing. Look for Mudd to move out from the middle of the batting lineup this year.
Sam Hedges is the Tigers top overall player. He is an all around athlete with great speed and strength. He plays through the ball very well and is an an accurate thrower from the outfield. The Northern Kentucky commit is a great batter and takes advantage of the gaps in the field.
With 4 returning players, and 1 Junior, look for the Tiger outfielders to have a monster season.
Schedule and Other Notes:
Once again, the Tigers will play a strong out-of-town schedule with teams including Brother Rice (IL), a Spring Break Tournament in Nashville, Cincy St. X, and Elder High School.
In the state, the Tigers will field tough competition against Trinity and Ballard. Both of these teams are in the same region as St.X, and have a lot of talent. Notably, Trinity will have two UofL signees. Ballard’s Jordan Adell is a one man show, also committed to UofL, and looks to be a top prospect in the 2017 MLB Draft.
Overall, the Tigers do have a strong chance to go back to back and win the state title come this June. This feat has not been accomplished since Harrison County did it in the 1997-1998 seasons. However, if last year is an indication of how the Tigers play in the postseason, they know how to get it done when it counts.
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