Lakeside enters the 2023 season with six returning starters but its fair share of question marks.
The Dragons will be relatively inexperienced this spring, but head coach Jared Sziber is excited about his squad’s potential.
“Heading into this season, there was and still are a ton of question marks,” Sziber said. “Not necessarily on who will be playing, but what level of expectations there are. We have a lot of young guys all over the field, and we have been impressed with their work ethic and coachability. Our focus is to make each game as competitive as possible, stay true to our game plan and the results we want will come. This is my 10th year coaching and it’s one of the more excited I have been coming into a season because I feel like I am not really sure what to expect, but I love the direction we are heading as a program.”
The Dragons finished 5-18 overall and 1-8 in the Chagrin Valley Conference Chagrin Division last season.
Sziber is confident Lakeside will show improvement this season.
“We never really like to put win totals on the season,” he said. “We just want to see our young guys keep getting better and for guys to make jumps that we have had in the program for a few years. If we focus on that, then the season will be a success.”
The Dragons feature three seniors in their projected starting lineup including center fielder Malachi Matlock, left fielder Cam Mitchell, and third baseman Kam Crockett.
Matlock stole 12 bases last season.
Junior first baseman/pitcher Alex DiSalvatore returns after earning honorable mention All-CVC honors last spring. He batted .284 and struck out 16 batters in 12 innings of work.
Junior Gavin Grant will DH and junior Caleb Sitt will play shortstop and pitch. He posted a 3.4 earned run average last year with 21 strikeouts in 21 innings of work.
Sophomore catcher Dyln Newsome and freshmen Anthony Wooten and Mathew Wagner round out the starting lineup. Wooten will play second and Wagner will patrol right field.
“We will have to have a total team effort in order for us to reach our goals,” Sziber said. “We feel that senior Malachi Matlock is ready to have a breakout year. He is very athletic and fast. When he gets the ball in play he can do a lot of damage. Alex DiSalvatore’s final offensive numbers do not indicate how well he performed in the second half of the year. He regularly hit the ball hard, but just could not catch a break. Dyln Newsome has the chance to be an impact hitter for us. As a freshman, he did not get the chance to hit a lot, but has shown a tremendous amount of growth.”
Stitt, DiSalvatore, and Crockett will chew up most of the innings on the mound for the Dragons, and Wagner, Wooten, and freshman Gage Tome also will throw some innings.
“Youth and depth will be our biggest challenge on the season,” Sziber said. “We know our freshmen will have a learning curve. There will be bumps along the way, but we really believe in them and their talents. While we have a very versatile lineup, we are very thin on the varsity level. Our strengths are our versatility. We have great athleticism and speed up and down the lineup, which we will need. The defense should help keep us in most games as well.”