Marion High baseball coach Roger Schroeder hopes young is the new old this season, at least in terms of experience.
“It’s going to be similar to last year in that we’re extremely young, but we should be more experienced based on the fact that we had so many young guys forced into the lineup last year,” he said. “I think that will help us. We played so much better the second half of the season. I’m hoping that positive momentum carries over.”
One reason for optimism is the return of Centre High School’s Cole Srajer, who Schroeder credits as the “spark plug” for last year’s late-season surge.
“We plugged him in to second base and leadoff spot, and we got going,” Schroeder said. “He was kind of our catalyst. He has a knack for hitting and getting on base.”
Senior Dylan Pippin will anchor the pitching staff, which will include Nathan Baldwin and Mason Pederson in the rotation. Corbin Wheeler and Payton Heidebrecht also will see innings on the mound.
“Dylan is coming off a good junior year in which he led our team in innings and got a good feel for pitching at the varsity level,” Schroeder said.
Baldwin will catch the majority of games, Schroeder said, backed up by Garrett Hoffner. Baldwin brings good game management skills to the position.
“He does a very good job of controlling the game from behind the plate,” Schroeder said. “He caught every single one of those guys last year. There shouldn’t be a whole lot of shaking off signs.”
Shortstop Corbin Wheeler and second baseman Remington Putter will protect the middle of the field. Schroeder said both players have shown better glove skills thus far in practice, and have developed good grasps of defensive strategies.
“They need to be some of our smarter players,” Schroeder said.
Heidebrecht has settled in at third base, and Dylan Deines, a Centre junior with limited varisty experience, will hold down first.
Center fielder Mason Pedersen will join left fielder Srajer in the outfield, and Schroeder expects to rotate players through right field. Pedersen’s range is a plus, he said.
“He played a lot of center field last year,” Schroeder said. “He just has a knack for going and getting the ball.”
Heidebrecht, who hit .380 last year and was all-league first team, should be the most reliable bat on offense, followed closely by Srajer, who hit over .300.
The biggest challenge for the Warriors will be getting runners on base.
“We struck out a ton last year,” Schroeder said. “That isn’t something we can afford to do. We have to be about to put the ball in play, bunt, and hit and run. Speed never slumps. We need to get those guys on base, put pressure on the defense, and make them make tough plays.”
The other thing the Warriors have to do is to stay healthy and injury-free so they can settle in and develop consistency at their positions. Schroeder said his varsity lineup will be between 11 and 13 players.
“We’re just a rolled ankle away from having to shift people around,” he said.