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Cougars, Panthers return several arms, batters

Cougars, Panthers return several arms, batters
Cougars, Panthers return several arms, batters
Corydon Central's Tyler Stauth is one of several arms returning for the Panthers' baseball team. File photos by Brian Smith

The Corydon Central and North Harrison baseball programs are bringing back familiar faces to the diamond this spring. The Mid-Southern Conference and sectional rivals hope to turn experiences from last season into 2015 success.
Here is a preview of both teams (Lanesville and South Central previews will appear next week):
Corydon Central
Corydon Central graduated two from last season’s team, most notably middle infielder Dalton Arnold.
Back are a slew of Panthers.
‘A positive is we return a lot of kids,’ Corydon Central coach Zach Sipes said.
Three seniors make up the roster with only one playing much during the previous year. The key returner is Tyler Stauth, also slotted to be one of the top arms in the clubhouse.
‘Stauth is our big returning senior,’ Sipes said. ‘We’re looking for him to fill in in a lot of areas. He’ll be one of our key pitchers and play the infield along with left and right field when we need him.’
The two additional seniors are Daniel Kimmel and Dillion Simler. Kimmel missed time last season with an injury but gives Sipes options at the corner infield positions. Simler returns to the program after a year away.
‘Kimmel is coming off an injury year, and Simler decided to come back for his senior year,’ Sipes said. ‘Those guys can help in multiple ways.’
While there are three seniors in the upper class, Corydon Central didn’t waste time putting out a gang of freshmen a year ago. Those freshmen are now sophomores.
‘We started five freshmen at one point last year,’ Sipes said. ‘Those guys got a lot of experience last year, but we hope they are more ready as sophomores.’
Among the sophomore class are pitcher/infielder Zach Mason, catcher/pitcher Alec Saulman, pitcher/infielder Austin Gum, infielder Clayton Schreck and pitcher/infielder Jordan Ripperdan.
‘Mason is a sophomore we are looking to be our No. 2 (pitcher),’ Sipes said. ‘Again, this year, our pitchers are a work in progress. It’s more of a pitch by committee for us early.’
Stauth took the ball in several MSC tilts last season and will likely get the nod in many this time around. Sipes said he wants the pitchers to get three outs each inning while limiting walks.
‘We have a good number of pitchers, but it’s raw right now,’ Sipes added. ‘We probably can’t go deep into games with just one pitcher, but the guys are working hard. Hopefully by the end of the year, our guys are there and ready to win the sectional.’
Other returners to the varsity team include juniors T.J. Mathes (outfield) and Adam Yeager (catcher/infield).
With younger players growing up, Sipes said the grind of the baseball season shouldn’t come as a shock as it did in 2014.
‘Last year, we came out of the gates pretty fast, winning four or five games off the bat,’ he said. ‘Then, we turned around the next week and had to play four or five more games. I don’t think my freshmen then were prepared for that.’
With that came errors in the field, something the coach wants to reduce this season.
At the plate, the Panthers strive to be a contact team.
‘I want us to be a high contact team,’ Sipes said. ‘We’re looking to strike out just a few times per game. We want to be aggressive on the bases because I feel we have some speed.’
Thus far in the early spring, the coach likes what he sees.
‘For us to be good, we’ve preached everyone to have a team mentality,’ he said. ‘We need all our guys to be utility players, be willing to play the infield, outfield and give us innings pitching … We’re still a ways away from a finished product, but, if we keep getting better as the season goes on, we could get closer to where we want to be.’
North Harrison
Last season was productive for the Cougars in the win column, notching 17 victories. The Cougars are hungry for more.
One player gone from the program due to graduation is pitcher Cameron Smith. While many starters are returning, North Harrison also has added depth with 37 players making up the high school program.
‘We’re looking to ‘earn’,’ North Harrison coach Jamie Polk said of the preseason message to his squad. ‘Everyone wants us to be good and think we’re good, but we haven’t earned anything. I want them to earn it. Silver Creek, Charlestown and those guys aren’t going to give it to us. I want see us continue to grow and earn it.’
Coming into the 2015 season, plenty of capable arms are back in the pitching arsenal. Lefties may be specialists on major league rosters, but the Cougars have a trio among its top returners. The southpaw stable includes seniors Craig Waynescott and Micah Napper and junior Konner Voyles.
‘Konner has gotten a lot stronger,’ Polk said. ‘He’s worked really hard in the offseason. Micah has picked up a little bit as far as velocity and is always around the zone.’
Waynescott was a 10-game winner as a sophomore and adds to the lefty mix.
Returning to throw from the other side is junior Gage Arnold, who is coming off an all-conference year. He also gained additional experience playing legion baseball in the summer months.
‘We have four pretty experienced pitchers, but we also have some young kids I like,’ Polk said. ‘We’ll work to get in innings out of our young guys.’
Having graduated Smith, Polk said his job may have been undervalued by outsiders.
‘He gave us quality innings and could come in and throw two or three days in a row,’ Polk said of the reliever.
Setting up behind the plate is a familiar face to the Cougars’ baseball program, Brad Nowak, a three-year starter.
When not pitching, Voyles mans center field, a position the coach said was nailed down last season.
‘He made some plays in the sectional that showed me he wasn’t a sophomore anymore,’ Polk said.
Waynescott and Arnold play outfield spots, while Napper can handle the glove at first base.
In the middle are a pair of returners in senior second baseman Jacob Faith and junior shortstop Alex Flock.
Faith returns as one of the top hitters, putting up a .380 batting average.
‘He’s really developed,’ Polk said. ‘He was a real raw hitter and swinger but could just flat out hit it. Now, he’s developed his swing even better.’
Flock is a solid player all around with great defensive range and a strong left-handed bat at the dish.
Other key returning seniors include Andrew Battista, who saw time as a designated hitter last season, along with Austin Reynolds, a utility infielder. Dustin Mitchell, a senior, moves up from the junior varsity level and provides a pinch running option.
Sophomores Paul Moberly (third base) and Alex Eveslage (outfield) saw varsity time last season.
‘I have a great group of kids that work real hard,’ Polk said. ‘They should be excited, but I want them intense and ready to go earn it.’
Offensively, Polk said one obvious change is the physical make-up of his team.
‘All of our guys have gotten stronger,’ he said. ‘Many guys train and lift on their own, and it happens when you mature, too. We were young last year, and now they are a year older physically.’
With much of the lineup back, there won’t be too much tinkering. Polk said there is great competition for a few spots that are still up for grabs.
‘We’re in a really good spot as a program,’ Polk said. ‘We have 37 kids, which is pretty good. It’s allowing these young kids to develop … Our big thing is our depth. We have eight seniors, and they’ve all played together for a long time.’

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