Wauseon baseball followed up its two-year run as the NWOAL champions with a league runner-up finish in 2015. With seven letter winners returning, including three who received all-league honors, the Indians should be poised to challenge presumptive favorite Bryan.
“We will look to continue to compete for a league championship which will require consistent play throughout the season,” said head coach Trent Thomas, who enters his 10th season. “We feel like we have developed a non-conference schedule that prepares us for the league season and will prepare us for a longer tournament run.”
Strengths for the Indians include experience returning on the mound to complement the return of their top two hitters. Weaknesses are overall depth, team speed, and youth at key positions.
“Several player(s) have moved on due to graduation and we will need to have players step up to fill those roles,” noted Thomas. “We do have several players who have the potential to do this but it will all depend on how fast they acclimate themselves to varsity baseball. One concern is, we have a few players who enter the season with injuries, some of which should be healed before the season but other(s) which will not. This will significantly test our depth.”
Back for the Indians are Brady Kinnersley, who was second team All-Ohio, first team all-district and first team All-NWOAL; JJ Kauffman, who was honorable mention all-district and honorable mention all-league; and Brady Rupp, who was second team all-district and second team all-league.
Kinnersley paced the Wauseon offense with a .447 batting average (BA), .587 on base percentage (OBP), and 22 runs batted in (RBIs). He was also 5-2 on the mound with a 3.00 earned run average (ERA).
Rupp had a .405 BA, .455 OBP, and knocked in 18 RBIs. Kauffman had a .288 BA, .372 OBP and 16 RBIs.
Also returning are Jac Flory, Josh Whitcomb, Travis Smith, and Carter Bzovi. Promising newcomers are Franklin Peralta, Marcel Barajas, Kris Moebs, Brooks Gype, CJ Moser, and Everett Bueter.
The Indians will also be looking to replace the production left by departed letter winners Nate Suntken (honorable mention all-league in 2014), Jacob Newlove (second team all-league/all-district), Josh Kauffman (first team all-district, second team all-league), Peyten Shadbolt (first team all-league, second team all-district), Caleb Andrews, and Collin Stump (honorable mention all-district).
“We do, however, have a solid group returning, and we have several players competing to see who can step up and fill those shoes,” said Thomas. “The preseason has gone really well and we are excited about this group. Our success will be determined by how quickly we are able to develop pitchers and hitters who have little to no varsity experience.”
The Indians finished 18-9 overall and 6-2 in the league last season, falling to Bryan 12-5 in the Division II district semifinal.
Coach Thomas expects the NWOAL to be very competitive this season.
“Each and every night you must play your best game to win in our conference,” he said. “I believe that any team in this league could beat anyone on a given night. This year’s league is by far as balanced as it has been since I have been at Wauseon. I truly believe that any team could get hot and win the league.”
Max Householder can be reached at 419-335-2010