An arms race is expected in the Northern Lakes League where potent pitching looks to be the dominating factor in one of Ohio’s most competitive conferences.
Defending champion Perrysburg will be led by senior pitchers Mark Delas and A.J. Stockwell, making the Yellow Jackets the preseason pick to repeat. Southview is picked to finish a close second, followed by Springfield and Anthony Wayne in the NLL coaches poll.
Perrysburg has won two of the last three titles.
“It’s nice the kids and the tradition get the recognition,” coach Dave Hall said. “But it doesn’t mean anything until you prove it.”
Perrysburg climbed to as high as No. 5 in the state poll last year.
“We have some teams that could be in the top 10,” Hall said.
Southview, which earned three first-place votes, also returns a solid pitching staff.
“The NLL will be very competitive, and we have to be able to hit to compete,” Southview coach Ed Mouch said. “Our pitching and defense should be good enough to keep us in games.”
Springfield coach Dave Whitmire said his team should challenge for the school’s first title.
Anthony Wayne coach Mark Nell said the league has the most balance in his 14 years.
“That last week of the season, you will see five teams that could be in it,” he said.
Perrysburg (27-4, 13-1) has five starters back for Hall, who is 531-284 in 29 seasons.
Delas, who also is a standout in football and wrestling, will play baseball at Toledo. The catcher and pitcher earned All-Ohio first team honors. Delas finished third in the NLL with a .408 average and drove in 31 runs. Delas had a 6-1 record with a 1.58 earned run average.
Stockwell (1B/P) also earned All-NLL first team honors. He batted .292 with 19 runs batted in. Stockwell went 7-0 with a 2.15 ERA and three saves.
Senior Nick Fleming (2B) had 14 RBIs and a .338 average. Junior Gus Dimmerling (SS/P) hit .349 with 23 RBIs. Sophomore Zach Honsberger (OF/P) hit .389 and senior Bobby Borger (P/OF) had a 2.23 ERA.
Hall likes his defense and speed, but lacks power hitting.
Southview (17-9, 9-5) has six starters back including three solid pitchers. Mouch is 82-56 going into his sixth season.
Senior pitcher Alexander Theiss earned all-district first team honors. Theiss, who will play at the University of Findlay, had a 8-2 record with a 1.90 ERA.
Senior Griffin McDonald (3B/P) hit .371. Junior Tyler Stambaugh (P/1B) earned all-district first team after posting a 4-3 record with a 2.02 ERA. Junior Colin Boerst (SS) was all-league first team (.364).
Mouch said pitching and defense will be strengths, while scoring runs with a challenge.
Springfield (19-9, 8-6) has seven starters back for Whitmire, who is in his sixth season.
Senior Devin Burns (OF) had a .390 average, scored 29 runs, and drove in 30 runs to earn first team all-district honors.
Senior Blake Rudolph (SS/P) batted .360 and scored 36 runs. He went 2-1 with a 1.29 ERA. Sophomore infielder Scott Seymour had a .398 average with 29 runs scored to earn All-NLL first team honors. Senior Andrew Case (P/1B) went 5-4 with a 2.98 ERA. Senior Kory Petintiot (P/1B) had a .343 average with 14 RBIs to take all-league first team honors. Senior outfielder Austin Miles batted. 333
“We have several players who have a lot of varsity experience,” Whitmire said. “We have a lot of team speed.”
Anthony Wayne (20-5, 12-2) has five starters and nine seniors among the 14 players.
“Our strength, I hope, will be depth in pitching,” Nell said. “We don’t have a true horse. Our philosophy is to throw strikes and make routine plays.”
Senior Josh Schwerer (P/OF/SS/IF), who earned All-NLL first team honors, can play anywhere and is one of the top pitchers. Schwerer batted .375 with 22 RBIs. Senior Austin Kottenbrock (2B) is a pure hitter and good fielder who had 18 RBIs with a .345 batting average. Seniors Alex Murphy (SS/P) and D.J. Komisarek (C) also return along with junior Aaron Stark (U/P).
But there will be five new starters in the field. “We always talk about being in the race the last week of the season,” Nell said.
Bowling Green (15-14, 4-10) will be led by former Owens Community College coach Bob Schultz, who had a 257-127 record (most wins in school history) in eight seasons.
Schultz inherits seniors Andy Fisher (LHP/OF), David Fouts (2B), and Ricky Riggs (SS). Juniors Mitch Cromley (P/DH) and Mason Apple (3B) and Jeremy Chambers (P/OF) return.
Fisher, who has signed to play at Eastern Illinois, finished second in the league with a .417 average. Fisher (5-1) led the NLL with a 0.65 ERA. He had 53 strikeouts in 43 innings.
Junior Spencer Schultz (C) transferred from Lake where he earned All-Northern Buckeye Conference first team honors. Juniors Hogan Pash (RHP/OF) and Ricky Riggs (SS) are back.
Napoleon (8-20, 2-12) will be led by pitcher Zach Willeman, who will play at Kent State.
Willeman had 77 strikeouts in 57 innings and a 3.40 ERA. Willeman is among six starters back for coach Mark Stacey.
Senior outfielder Tyler Torrez batted .368 average with 11 RBIs and 10 stolen bases.
Stacey said pitching should be his team's strength with senior Wes Rickenburg as the No. 2 arm. Rickenburg will be a preferred walk-on at Bowling Green State University.
Maumee (11-14, 5-9) entered last season as the favorites to win its first title since 2004. But injuries derailed the Panthers.
Coach Cam Coutcher, who has a 163-160-1 record entering his 13th season, has four returning starters.
Junior Jordan Spellis had a 2-1 record with a 2.07 earned run average. Junior John Brady (3B/OF/P) posted a 2-1 record with a 2.66 ERA. Senior catcher Alex Misko and senior first baseman Joe Szymanski also started. Misko batted .356 with 17 RBIs. Also back are shortstop/pitcher Jason Burkett and pitcher/outfielder Garrett Siefer.
Coutcher said the strengths are hard work and camaraderie, while inexperience is a concern. “Our expectations are always to compete for a league championship,” he said.
Northview (9-19, 3-11) has 15 on the varsity for coach Greg Szparka who enters his second season expecting his team to be competitive.
“We are a very athletic team with some good speed,” Szparka said. “We have some young pitching that gained some experience.”
Senior catcher Ryan Rogers earned All-NLL second team honors. Other top returners include senior Trenton Bick (P), junior Preston Due (P/DH), junior Ryan Moebius (SS), sophomore Corbin Paxton (1B), junior Eric Walz (U), and senior Zach Wagenhauser (P).
“We will need to pitch and play defense well to win games in this very tough league,” he said.