A Clarke baseball team filled with youth last season, gained a year of experience that they’ll be looking to rely upon this summer.
The six eighth graders from a year ago are now freshmen and after losing just two seniors, the Indians have a few more roles figured out.
Conner Deutsch, Evan Hagen and Payton Winship will be the workhorses, according to first-year head coach Lonnie Smith.
“Conner, Payton, Evan, as they go, so goes the team. We’re going to be relying on those guys very heavily for leadership and production,” said Smith.
Deutsch and Winship led the team last year with batting averages of .362 and .266, respectively.
All three juniors are expected to pitch this summer.
The two seniors that graduated last summer, Ethan Porter and Billy Otto, finished the campaign tied for the most RBIs of any Indians player with 10.
Most of the players Smith has coached since middle school and he expects their defense to pick them up when needed.
With a pitching staff that posted a 6.62 team earned run average last season, making sure free bases are cut down on is a priority.
Freshman Casey Kindred threw 10 1/3 innings on the hill last year and drove in seven runs at the plate. Smith expects him to play an especially important role this summer.
“He is going to be a starting pitcher this year and he’s our cleanup hitter. I expect really good things out of him,” said Smith.
The freshmen, Taylor Henry, Zethann May, Dalton Stubbe, Mathew Dudney and Jacob Jamison along with Kindred will be asked even more by Smith.
Will Smith, also a freshman, is expected to maintain the starting catching duties.
Being young isn’t an acceptable excuse for Smith, who knows they were even younger last year and the bulk of the Indians lineup this year saw varsity playing time last year.
“What we talk about all the time is we’re young, but we’re experienced,” said Smith. “’You guys know what you’re getting into. You know what this is like. You know varsity baseball. So get out there and get the job done.’”
“That’s kind of where we’re at. We’ve got so many young guys, but it’s a unique situation because they have experience, varsity playing experience even.”
Clarke is off to an 0-4 start, just missing out on its first win May 24 in a 5-4 loss versus Central Decatur.