With eight returning starters from last year’s squad that finished 9-11 overall and 6-5 in the Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division, the Cardinal Huskies are hungry to take another big step this spring.
Last year, the Huskies gained respect among their league counterparts and this year they hope to compete for the league title.
“Our expectations are high, they always should be,” Cardinal second-year coach Seth Klepper said. “We think we have added a winning attitude within the program and once you believe in yourself and your teammates, the possibilities are endless. If we play fundamental, sound ball, limit walks and put the ball in play, we should be fine.”
The Huskies will be among the most experienced teams in the league with six seniors in the everyday lineup.
Senior Jacob Gotham returns behind the plate after batting .393. The West Liberty University commitment earned honorable mention All-CVC honors last spring.
Brian Westover will play first, Brice Hogue returns at shortstop, Dan Heredos is slotted in left field, Jon Heredos is projected to play right and Matt Carney will play centerfield.
Hogue was named first team All-CVC after batting .397 last season and Carney was a second-teamer after hitting .403.
Sophomores Justin Shank and Brandon Collins are expected to start at second base and third base, respectively, and juniors Rob Granny and Kael Byler and sophomores Parker Campbell and Jerry Rose will provide depth. Granny will play first, Campbell is a utility man and Byler and Rose are outfielders.
“Even though we have a lot of upperclassmen, we have a few sophomores that are going to play big roles this season,” Klepper said. “They have to bring it every play.”
Hogue, Carney, Westover and Shank return at the top of the pitching rotation providing the Huskies with quality and experience on the hill.
Hogue recorded a 2.80 earned run average last spring while Carney finished with a 3.08 ERA and Westover closed out the year at 4.66.
“We have a lot of different options,” Klepper said of his pitching staff. “These older kids know what needs to be done and know how we operate and they are hungry.”
Last spring, the Huskies relied mostly on their speed to create runs.
This season, Cardinal has more power and the Huskies will use that to their advantage.
“This season is different,” Klepper said. “We are balanced. We won’t have to depend on our legs as much.”
If the Huskies can limit their mental mistakes and produce the way their coach knows they can, the CVC Valley Division could be very interesting this spring.