Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Sports

April 11, 2014

BASEBALL: Howard County preview

Panthers, Tigers embark on new coaching eras

(Continued)

Taylor (1-0) hosts Manchester on Tuesday.

EASTERN

The Comets return a lot of players from a 12-14 squad.

“We have a lot of experience,” Eastern coach Nick Sale said. “We’re kind of junior and senior loaded. [Experience] is one of the things working for us right now. These guys have been in situations. It’s an exciting time for us.

“We lost to Alexandria 1-0 in extra innings last year in the sectional and they went on to win the sectional championship. We haven’t forgot about that game. These guys are hungry,” he added.

Sale points to pitching depth as a strength of the team. The Comets return junior lefty Caleb Aaron (4-5 record, 3.70 ERA, team-high 56 innings pitched) and senior Taylor Shallenberger (3-0, 3.91) and add promising junior Matt Simmerman, who is a move-in from Shelbyville.

Sale also has senior Braden Gibson (2-1), sophomore Jake Hartman and freshman Zach Robinson in his pitching plans.

Defensively, Simmerman and sophomore Blaine Dahl are catchers, junior Taylor Tattersall is the first baseman, junior Alec Downing is at second, Gibson is at shortstop and senior Austin Chase is at third. In the outfield, junior Cree Johnston is in center, junior Ty Catt is in left and junior Daniel Pugh and sophomore Tristen Moyers are candidates for right. Senior Will Porter offers outfield depth.

“Our pitching and defense have been strong the past two years. I’d like to think that will be the case again this year. Hopefully we can get the timely hits,” Sale said.

Downing and Catt likely will fill the top two spots in the batting order followed by Simmerman, Chase and Tattersall. Last season, Chase led the team in the Triple Crown categories (.411 average, three homers, 27 RBI).

In Eastern’s opener against Kokomo last week, Simmerman went 4 for 4 and Chase had three hits. Eastern had 16 hits.

“This is the most excited I’ve been about a team in a long time,” Sale said. “These guys are passionate about the game. I never have to get on the guys about working hard because they have that focus. They know what they what to accomplish. As a coach, it’s really exciting.”

Eastern (0-1) visits Oak Hill on Tuesday.

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