In the outfield, junior Braxton Hunt is in center, senior Devon Eaker is in left and junior Kyler Vail and senior Ryan Alexander are candidates for right field. Eaker is entering his third season as a starter.
Brown likes his defense’s mix of returning starters and promising new starters.
Warden is the top returning hitter. He batted .351 with five doubles, one homer and 19 RBI last season. Herr had a .337 average with 13 RBI, Weaver batted .314, Bellus batted .286 with five doubles, one homer and a team-high 30 RBI and Eaker batted .284. Warden and Bellus earned all-Mid-Indiana Conference honors.
“I think we’re going to continue to hit,” Brown said. “I think they know that Western has an air about them of being good hitters. We just want to continue that tradition and do it in the right way.
“I know they love to hit, I love to hit. I’d definitely say hitting is one of our strengths.”
Eaker will man the leadoff spot with Taylor, Warden and Bellus filling the top half of the order. But Brown noted his confidence in his players gives him different options.
Western is the defending MIC champion.
Western faces a new postseason destination this year after the IHSAA’s new success factor bumped the Panthers up to Class 4A for the next two seasons. Western will play in the Sectional 7 with Kokomo, Lafayette Jeff, Harrison, McCutcheon, Logansport and Marion.
“We embrace this challenge,” Brown said. “I’ve heard some people who love the success rule and I’ve heard some people who absolutely hate it. I’m one who loves it. ... We choose to look at it in a positive sense. We accept that challenge, we want that challenge. The sectional is going to be tough. But it’s going to make the players better and our program better.”