Every good manager talks about his team wanting to be strong up the middle defensively with good gloves at catcher, second base, shortstop and center field. If they are strong there, the manager believes his team’s going to be OK in the field.
Two area baseball teams are looking to fill in those pieces this spring.
At Princeton, second-year coach Tim Taylor has all four positions to fill, including Dylan Fawcett at catcher, David Sailer and Michael Murray at shortstop/pitcher and Dylan Olson in center field. All four of those players were All-BCR last year and accounted for a big percentage of the team offense, as well as defense. Taylor got a head start on the rebuilding at the end of the season by bringing up Nick Rolando to catch and shift Fawcett to outfield.
With the help of former Tiger stat man Scott Fawcett, here’s a quick review of what the men up the middle did for the Tigers last year.
They accounted for 45 percent of the team’s 891 at-bats (398), 54 percent of the team’s 220 total hits (118), 56 percent of the team’s 161 RBIs (89), 56 percent of the team’s 173 runs (97) and combined for .351 batting average and a combined .514 on-base percentage.
Throw in senior Jacob Fisher (.269 BA, 15 RBI), who moved to track this spring, and the graduation of P/1B Anthony Campbell and 2B Ben Schmidt, Taylor really has only junior Matt Hayes coming back with any stats at all.
St. Bede veteran coach John Bellino faces a similar rebuilding project having lost catcher Austin Duffell, shortstop Nick Hueneberg and pitcher/second baseman Alec Schwab. Along with third baseman Nick Passini and left fielder Ty Anderson, they accounted for 93 RBIs and scored 121 runs in the Bruins’ regional championship run.
I joked with Bellino this week that now we would see how good of a coach he really is. He summed it up best, I felt, saying the best thing about baseball is, each day is a different day.
• Preseason BCR: While a lot of top talent has moved on, area teams are still putting out quality products. Here’s a look at the BCR preseason teams.
In baseball, with key 2011 stats shown for returning players, the BCR 9 includes PHS’ Matt Hayes (.385, 14 RBI), Nick Rolando and Caleb Dickens, St. Bede’s Adam Burgess (4-1, 2.65 in 2011), Brad Groleau (.383) and Ronnie Mudge, and Hall’s Brett Fanning (.371, 2-5, 3.67), Danny Nolasco (.293, 5-3, 4.74) and Brian Kruse (3-4, 4.82).
On the softball diamond, the BCR preseason squad features Princeton’s Jess Martell (.397, 2 HR), Heidi James (6-4, 3.18) and freshman Abby Jaques, Hall’s Brenna Faletti (.411) and Johnna Schutz (.368, 4-13, 4.13), St. Bede’s Lainie Schwieckert (12-8, 1.94, .326), Bethany Stavrakas (.434) and Mo Dean (.484) and Bureau Valley’s Taylor Hewitt (.333, 5-1) and Emily Phillips (.398).
You can go with any number of rookies of the year in baseball with all the newcomers at Princeton, especially. But in softball, a good bet is Princeton freshman Abby Jaques, who’s off to a good start at the plate and showing a strong arm in the outfield and behind the plate.
Bleeding black and gold: As a Steeler fan I loved seeing Hines Ward make the big catches and punishing blocks over the years. I gained a lot more admiration for No. 86 when he announced his retirement Tuesday. Even non-Steeler fans should have.
The former Super Bowl MVP wanted to keep on playing, but the Steelers had decided to move in another direction. I’m sure he could have hooked onto another team and made some more money, but Ward said he couldn’t see himself wearing another color other than black and gold. It was great to see a player remain so loyal to his roots when most would have been looking to cash in somewhere else.
Kevin Hieronymus is the BCR Sports Editor. Contact him at email@example.com