Wauseon (16-9 overall, 6-2 NWOAL) is picked to end Bryan’s reign in Northwest Ohio Athletic League baseball. The Indians received six first place votes, while five-time defending champion Bryan received one.
Wauseon coach Trent Thomas will lean heavily on seniors Jake Trejo, Josh Cales, and Collin Bzovi to try and lead the Indians, who finished two games behind the Golden Bears last season.
Trejo is the team’s top returning hitter (.416, 32 RBIs). He also pitched 50 1/3 innings, struck out 42 batters, and posted a 5-2 record with a 3.20 ERA.
Cales, who has signed with the University of Toledo, batted .353 and had 20 RBIs and two home runs.
Bryan (20-6, 8-0) has won its last 40 NWOAL games.
Starting pitchers Collin Bacon (1.57 ERA, 33 Ks) and Blake Kuszmaul (2.29 ERA, 45 Ks), both seniors, lead the way for coach Jeff Inselmann, who begins his second season.
Bacon also proved clutch at the plate, batting .310 with a team-best three home runs and 29 runs scored. Jordan Bostater (pitcher/infielder), a junior, is also a key returner after batting .297 with 18 RBIs.
Seniors David Miller (infielder/pitcher) and Dexter Ridgway (outfielder) and junior Austin Martin (outfielder/pitcher) are also key players.
Archbold (16-13, 4-4), under coach Dick Selgo, had high hopes with an expected seven letter winners returning.
However, Tyson Dietrich, who batted .359 and drove in 25 runs and hit three homers, will probably have to have season-ending shoulder surgery, according to Selgo.
"We’re going to have to get some mileage out of our other players after suffering the injury to Tyler Dietrich," he said. "I feel good about our pitching depth. We have a lot of guys I can put on the mound and I will have confidence in."
Second baseman Michael Walker, who batted .362 and drove in 17 RBIs last spring, is being counted on among the returners. Senior pitcher Taylor Price was among the league’s top throwers, owning a 2.80 ERA with 29 strikeouts.
Evergreen (19-7, 5-3) has plenty of reasons to be optimistic.
And it starts with top returner Matt Brighton, who batted .387 and drove in 24 runs his junior season. He was also the Vikings’ ace, leading the NWOAL with a 0.86 ERA.
He gave up only three runs in 16 1/3 innings of work as part of a talented pitching rotation that also included returners Dylan Hendricks (2.19 ERA) and Kevin Denker (2.53 ERA).
“We have an experienced group returning,” said coach Brian Nagy said, has eight letter winners back from last season. “We lost only three players to graduation from last year’s team.”
Seniors Kyle Kern-Blystone (catcher), Kurtis Pierce (outfielder), Jamie Wright (pitcher/outfielder), and Alex Regan (outfielder), and junior Jacob Dowling (pitcher/infielder) are also returners with experience.
Patrick Henry (17-10, 5-3) begins its fourth season under coach Shawn Sunderman.
“I believe there will be a lot of competition in a close race for the league title this year,” Sunderman said. “We play a very balanced and tough schedule in a strong, small-school baseball league that will not be easy for a young team. We hope the experience we gain throughout the year will improve us every game.”
Pitcher Gabe Jones (2.84 ERA, 5-0) and sluggers Kollin Spence (.372, 24 RBI) and Derek Hoops (.326, 26 RBI) are the top returners.
Anderson Okuley, Josh Petersen, Logan Ziegler, Derek Kolpien, and Kyler Seemann are also expected to contribute.
Swanton (9-16, 1-7) looks to improve with Brian Reeves (utility), Clayton Ringle (catcher), Jacob Peabody (outfielder), Kyle Dockery (utility), and Brady Harlett (infielder) as top returners. Ringle is Swanton’s top offensive threat after batting .338 last spring.
“This will be the third season many of these kids have played for our coaching staff, and we feel like it is time to have high expectations for success,” Swanton coach Johnny Kontak said.
Montpelier (10-16, 3-5) has senior Tyler Benner, who batted a team-leading .425 last season. He leads a senior-led roster. The three-year letter winner stole 16 bases, drove in 16 runs, and had a 1.45 ERA with 28 strikeouts.
“We have a large group of guys this year with varsity letters playing as role players,” Montpelier coach Lance Thorp said. “How these guys adapt to playing every day will determine our successes as a team.”
Seniors Spencer Durham (infielder), Derrek Head (infielder), Adam Helms (outfielder), and Jonuh Ramos (outfielder) have plenty of experience to offer to the Locomotives’ lineup.
Liberty Center (9-16, 2-6 ) begins its second season under coach Paul Amstutz, Jr.
“As a team we have been swinging the bat very well, and as long as we can put the defensive aspect with it, we could have a very good year,” Amstutz said. “The team is very motivated to pick up where we left off last year, where we finished the last 16 games 8-8.”
Junior Kaleb Pohlman batted .416 a year ago to finish tied for ninth in among the league’s top hitters. Senior Tyler Davis hit .338 last season and is also one of the top offensive threats in the NWOAL. Logan Meyer (pitcher), Sean Westhoven (shortstop), and Konnor Pohlman (pitcher) also return.
Delta (7-18, 2-6) returns six letter winners, and coach Damon Mattimore is optimistic about his second season in charge.
Seniors Dominic Mattimore and Hunter Macionsky, three-year letterwinners, are a couple reasons for encouaragement. Mattimore hit .333 and knocked in 15 runs last season. Macionsky batted. .302 and scored 21 runs.
Seniors Shelton Lillich (infielder) and Ryan Vaughan (pitcher) and juniors Wyatt Bronson (utility), Anthony Demaline (utility), Tyler Fahrer (catcher/outfielder), Jeffery McQuillin (utility), and Andrew Stickley (infielder) provide experience.
“The league looks typical of the NWOAL with no one to be overlooked,” Coach Mattimore said. “As usual in this league you will have to bring your best game every night in order to get a win over anyone. One through nine, any team could get you.”