Swanton baseball aims to have another winning season in 2019, led by a group of 10 seniors.
The Bulldogs posted a 14-9 record in 2018 with a 4-3 mark in the Northwest Ohio Athletic League, good enough for third place behind Bryan and Archbold. They reached the district where they dropped a tough one to Eastwood, 1-0.
“We have a very experienced team with 10 seniors,” said head coach Tim McCarthy. “Once again we will play a very tough non-league and NWOAL schedule. I believe that will have us battle tested as we make the jump to a very tough D-II district.
“If we can field it consistently and improve offensively as a whole, then we have a great chance to go out and accomplish our goals for the 2019 season.”
Returning to lead the Bulldogs are seniors Roman Epley (first team All-NWOAL in 2018), Michael Lawniczak (second team All-NWOAL), Hunter Mix (honorable mention All-NWOAL), Xavier Williams (honorable mention All-NWOAL), Austin Luce, Derek Floyd, Tommy Chonko, Jayde Kruzel, Carter Swank and Zach Zawodni.
They also have back junior Billy Nowakowski and sophomore Devon Crouse.
“Despite the loss of Zach Bloom we return a lot of experience on the mound,” noted McCarthy. “We have 6 guys who effectively threw varsity innings last season. Add a couple newcomers to the mix and I really like our depth there. Offensively we return 3 of our top 4 hitters from last season in Roman Epley, Hunter Mix and Michael Lawniczak. Having Michael, a four year starter behind the plate, is like having a coach on the field which certainly helps. Mix and Epley, also 4-year starters, should solidify our infield defense.”
Perhaps the biggest returning piece both offensively and defensively is Epley. He hit .414 with a pair of home runs and 22 runs batted in last season. The senior also held a 1.47 earned run average over 39 innings pitched.
Lawniczak, who was first team all-league as a sophomore, hit .292 with 14 RBIs and 25 runs scored for the Bulldogs in 2018. Also on offense, Mix posted a .342 batting average with 17 RBIs and nine stolen bases, while Floyd hit .277 with 16 RBIs.
On the mound for the Dogs, Luce returns after boasting a 2.63 ERA over 24 innings. Kruzel is also back, as he finished with a 3.47 ERA over 31 innings in 2018.
However, there are some weaknesses McCarthy hopes to clean up.
“We need to become more consistent defensively. Our pitchers did a really nice job throwing to contact last season but inconsistency (on defense) really hurt us,” he said. “We will be without Xavier Williams for most, if not all, of this season which leaves a void in CF (center field) and the lineup that needs to be filled. In order for us to be successful offensively, we will need increased production overall. I think our mental toughness will go a long way in deciding how good we can be in 2019.”
The only departure for the Dogs is Bloom. But it is a big one, as he was first team all-league in his senior season. Despite just a 1-2 record, he finished with a 0.51 ERA and 40 strikeouts, allowing only three earned runs over 42 innings.
If they can become more consistent defensively, and make up for the loss of Williams, Swanton can contend for a league title this season.
“In my opinion Bryan is the NWOAL favorite because of their pitching and returning last season’s POY (player of the year in (Nate) Miller,” said McCarthy of the NWOAL. “Archbold has some really good players returning as well. That being said, I believe there are several teams that can/will contend for a league title in 2019 which will make for an exciting league race.”
Swanton opens with a game at home against Northwood this Saturday beginning at 11 a.m. Next Monday they host Evergreen in a non-league contest.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010