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The Northern Lakes League has become among the most competitive baseball leagues in the state with stellar coaching, fundamentally sound defense, and perennially strong pitching.
Maumee, the preseason favorite to win this year’s title, has all three of those attributes along with an offense that should make consistent contact.
“It’s a matter of respect when you’re picked to be the favorite in this league,” Maumee coach Cam Coutcher said. “Our league is so competitive, it’s such a challenge to win it.”
The Panthers, who reached the Division I district final, will be seeking the program’s first NLL title since 2004. They would be the fifth different team to win the league in the last six years.
Maumee will be led by senior pitchers Steve Duby and Allen Brown. Duby, who had a 2.07 ERA, has committed to play at West Virginia. Brown had a 7-1 record.
“It comes down to pitching and defense,” Coutcher said. “Pitching wise, we are deeper this year. We won’t have as much power on offense. We’ll be more of a contact team.”
Anthony Wayne, the defending champion, lost eight starters to graduation, including five All-NLL first team players.
Perrysburg, which won the title in 2011 when it finished as D-I state runner-up, has quality pitching once again.
Maumee (18-10 overall, 11-3 NLL) made a run to the state title game in 2001.
“This team understands that through hard work, they can achieve anything,” said Coutcher, entering his 12th season.
Duby (SS/2B/P) finished with a .354 batting average and led the Panthers with 11 doubles and 29 runs batted in and he scored 30 runs. He had a 4-2 record and struck out 73 batters in 47 1/3 innings.
Brown (OF/2B/P) had a 3.26 ERA in 53 2/3 innings. Senior David McCrum (CF/P) had a .317 average along with three doubles, four triples, 13 RBIs, 26 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases. Senior Brad Cousino, a catcher, is a tri-captain along with Duby and McCrum. Junior Joe Szymanski (1B/P) finished with a .298 average with six doubles, 13 RBIs, and 20 runs scored.
“We are happy about the way our pitching staff has improved,” Coutcher said.
Perrysburg (16-13, 7-7) has three solid starting pitchers in Mark Delas, A.J. Stockwell, and Nick Munger.
Delas (3B/C/P), a junior, had a 2-1 record with a 2.69 ERA. Stockwell (1B/P), a junior, had a 1.75 ERA with four saves. Munger, a senior outfielder and pitcher, went 5-2 with a 3.17 ERA.
Coach Dave Hall, who has a 504-280 career record in 28 seasons, has seven starters back.
“Offensively, we have potential to be good, and we have good team speed,” he said.
Junior Nick Fleming (INF/P), senior Steve Slocum (OF/P, .283 average), sophomore Gus Dimmerling (SS/P), senior Ryan Garrity (2B), senior Austin Lee (OF/1B, .326), senior Spencer George (C), Stockwell (.346), and senior Bennett Westfall (P/DH, .273) will be counted on, as well as Kyle Durham, Seth Durham, and Bobby Borger.
Springfield (10-15, 2-12) struggled to hit for average (.232 as a team) under fifth-year coach Dave Whitmire last season.
“It’s a major concern,” Whitmire said. “We have to be able to give our pitchers some run support.”
The exception was junior center fielder Devin Burns, who hit .338, scored 27 runs, and went 12 for 12 in stolen base attempts.
Junior Andrew Case (4-6 record) is the ace of the staff. Case, who also plays first, had 35 strikeouts.
There are seven returning starters, including six who started as sophomores.
The three seniors are Cody Cullum (P/DH), Ryan Geiser (P/C) and Derek Douglas (3B). The other juniors are Blake Rudolph (P/SS/C), Kory Petiniot (P/1B), Tommy Kleinfelter (P, OF/DH) and Austin Miles (OF).
Freshman Scott Seymour (IN/C/P) is expected to make a big impact.
Defending champion Anthony Wayne (25-3, 13-1 NLL) has only one returning starter on defense.
Coach Mark Nell said the key will be how quickly the inexperienced players adjust.
“We have the potential to be a strong defensive team and the ability to play small ball on offense,” he said. “The obvious trouble area will be to find consistency with a team that has little experience.”
Senior Thomas Keyser, a center fielder, is the only returning starter.
The players looking to fill the void include seniors Tyler Deye (OF/C), Nick Smith (1B), Cal Johnson (OF), Michael Yunker (P), Zach Babb (P) and juniors Austin Kottenbrock (2B/P), Josh Schwerer (OF/P/INF), Alex Murphy (SS/P), D.J. Komisarek (C), and Chase Gottschalk (1B/DH).
Robert Yenrick inherits a club in transition at Bowling Green (16-10, 7-6).
Junior Andrew Fisher, a pitcher and center fielder, went 4-0 and had a 1.84 ERA.
Senior shortstop/second baseman Andrew Herringshaw batted .360 with 20 runs scored and 24 RBIs.
Seniors Nolan Dill (P/RF/1B), Austin Rodesky (P/ OF), Rob Tyrell (C ), Taylor Gambrell (P/1B), and juniors Ricky Riggs (2B/SS) and Joe Cohen (C ) are among the top players.
“For us to be successful, our team needs to improve on the mound, hitting, and in the outfield," Yenrick said.
At Southview (16-15, 6-8), fifth-year coach Ed Mouch must replace three pitchers and a catcher.
“I expect us to be competitive in games,” Mouch said. “If our pitching and defense hold up, we have a chance to win games.”
Senior second baseman Ian Segall batted .389 to earn All-NLL first team. Fellow senior Jordan Grunberg hit .375 to earn all-league second team .
Junior pitchers Alexander Theiss and Griffin McDonald return along with senior Sam Christman.
Napoleon (14-14, 6-8) enters its second season in the NLL and will be led by first-year coach Mark Stacey.
Senior pitcher Brian Flowers (6-2) had a 2.77 ERA last season. Junior Tyler Torrez (2B) batted .339 and scored 16 runs. But the Wildcats lost the three hitters with the highest averages to graduation.
Senior center fielder David Yunker will start along with left fielder Jacob Lerch, shortstop Michael Gillialand, right fielder Logan Mahlman, and third baseman Zach Willeman.
Stacey said he expects pitching and team chemistry to be strengths. But inexperience could hurt.
“We hope to parlay pitching, defense, and execution into wins,” Stacey said.
Greg Szparka takes over a young program at Northview (10-17, 3-11). Szparka, who was the freshman and junior varsity coach, said his team is athletic.
He has five seniors back: Kyle Kremchek (1B/P), Aaron Archambeau (P/SS), Connor Hartnett (OF), Brandon Witt (OF), and Aaron Paprocki (P).
“I expect to compete in every single game even though we are young,” Szparka said.