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Runs may be tough to come by in the pitching-rich Northern Lakes League where Perrysburg and Bowling Green once again figure to play prominent roles in the race for the championship.
Either the Bobcats or the Yellow Jackets have won the NLL title over the last six years. Bowling Green won last year and in 2000, while Perrysburg has five of the last eight crowns (2003, 2002, 2001, 1999 and 1997).
The Bobcats, who tied Maumee for the championship last year, have five starters back, including their top two pitchers.
We should be one of the favorite teams. We have the pitching back. I like our chances, BG coach Doug Merrill said. If we don t compete and repeat, I ve done something wrong.
Perrysburg won a sectional title last year and reached the state final four in 2003.
The Yellow Jackets have eight starters back including Brandon McFarland, who was a first-team All-NLL player last year.
We want to get back to the promised land, Perrysburg coach Dave Hall said. But Bowling Green is the team we have to beat. They have everyone back.
Anthony Wayne has a very deep pitching staff and should also have a say in the outcome. Southview, which has perhaps the best pitcher in the league in senior Brandon Best, should make some noise as well.
Our league is always a good league, Southview coach Mike O Reilly said. In that regard, anyone can beat anyone every day.
Here is a look at the teams in the NLL listed in order of predicted finish by the coaches:
Coach: Doug Merrill, third year
Last season: 16-8 overall, 11-3 NLL (tied for first)
Top returning players: Seniors Bryon Simon, P; Robert Tansel, C; Josh Swieckie, LF. Juniors Jason Cress, P; Jeremiah Kollar, IF.
Outlook: Simon and Cress both had ERAs under 3.50 and Cress was 7-2 in 2004. Tansel is perhaps the team s biggest offensive weapon and Kollar also is a good hitter.
Offensively we will play small ball. We won t hit anyone out of the ballpark, Merrill said.
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Coach: Dave Hall, 20th year
Last season: 17-14, 7-7 (fifth)
Top returning players: Seniors Brandon McFarland, 1B; Lewis Calvin, 1B/DH; Scott Herrick, OF; Zach Nunn, 2B/P, Phil Reed, 1B/P. Juniors Sam Allesee, P; Nick Hefner, SS/2B/P.
Outlook: McFarland hit .351 with 21 RBIs last season, while Allesee earned honorable mention in the NLL as a sophomore pitcher (3-0, 1.45 ERA). Calvin is back at DH after recovering from Tommy John surgery.
With the pitchers we have back, we expect to be back in the hunt this year, Hall said. If our hitting comes around we can challenge BG and AW.
Coach: Mark Nell, fifth year
Last season: 18-10, 8-6 (fourth)
Top returning players: Seniors Corey Bergfeld, P; Kenny Thornton, P; Nick Picciano, P. Juniors Adam Brentlinger, DH/C; Andy Whewell, P; Thomas Hertzfeld, 2B.
Outlook: Bergfeld, a lefty, is a three-year letter-winner who was 5-4 and batted .347 with 16 RBIs. Thornton, another crafty lefty, has good ball movement. Brentlinger led the team in hitting (.400), while Whewell posted a 7-3 record as a sophomore and had 15 stolen bases.
Coach: Mike O Reilly, 24th year
Last season: 21-8, 9-5 (third)
Top returning players: Seniors Brandon Best, P/3B/2B; Matt Thorn, P/1B; Bobby Block, IF; Jack Vaughn, P. Sophomore Jason Hartzell, C.
Outlook: In 2004, the Cougars made it to the district semifinals where they lost to St. John s.
Best (3-3 with a 2.32 ERA in 2004) is mentioned by many as perhaps the best pitcher in northwest Ohio. Best also hit .351 last year. Thorn batted .311 and Hartzell finished his freshman season with a .353 average.
Coach: Kevin Danzeisen, fourth year
Last season: 10-18, 5-9 (sixth)
Top returning players: Seniors Andy Crewson, P; Jason Wahl, C; Brian Cook, IF/OF; Josh Dilallo P/IF.
Outlook: The Wildcats lost just about every player to graduation.
Northview has 14 players who are interchangeable at most positions.
Coach: Jamie Schwieterman, first year
Last season: 9-15, 3-11 (seventh)
Top returning players: Seniors Hans Vetter, OF/P; Andrew Screptock, OF/P. Juniors Steve Decker, C; Matt Kelsey, IF; Brad Konrad, IF.
Outlook: The Blue Devil infield should be solid, according to Schwieterman.
Consistent hitting has been a struggle, Schwieterman said. Pitching may determine how successful the season is.
Springfield is young with only four seniors on the team. Decker was named to the All-NLL second team as a sophomore.
Coach: Cam Coutcher, fourth year
Last season: 15-11, 11-3 (tied for first)
Top returning players: Seniors Stuart Schultz, SS; Doug Riseborough, 1B; Brian Regueiro, 3B. Juniors Jared Myers, C; Marcus Matyi, P.
Outlook: Last year, Maumee won its first league title since 1995, when their current coach was a sophomore for the Panthers. However, Coutcher lost nine starters from that team and has just one back.
The large group of juniors won an NLL junior varsity title last year.
Coach: Jason Biniker, third year
Last season: 8-20, 2-12 (eighth)
Top returning players: Seniors Matt Schwind, 2B; Josh Pheils, P/SS; C.J. Sloan, IF/P; Kevin DeSazio, IF. Juniors Ben Almester, OF/P; Derek Middaugh, OF.
Outlook: Biniker has just 23 boys in his entire program. Rossford is the only NLL team that does not have a freshman team. But Schwind is back after hitting .344 and posting a 3-3 record and a 3.47 ERA. The Bulldogs No. 2 pitcher, Pheils, had an ERA of 3.42.