Cardinal’s baseball team graduated nearly its entire roster, which means head coach Brian George is going to use a lot of new names to fill out his lineup card for Tuesday’s opener at Chagrin Falls.
George expects to start at least three freshmen and a sophomore this season.
“We're real young,” he said. “We're looking to improve as we go throughout the year. Things are going to get better as we go. Young guys are going to mature. They're pretty talented and they work really hard. We're looking to make improvements throughout.”
The Huskies lost their top five hitters from last season, leaving them in a situation where they’ll need new players to produce at the plate.
Still, their success this season hinges on quality pitching.
Fortunately, that’s where one of the team’s most veteran players returns.
Andrew Miller, one of three seniors, was 2-4 last season with a 6.70 earned run average. He finished second on the team with 30 strikeouts in just 31 1/3 innings of work.
“He's improved his mechanics a lot over the off-season,” George said. “He looks a lot better this season. After that we've got a bunch of young guys.”
Miller and junior Blake Hershberger are the only Huskies with varsity pitching experience. Hershberger was 0-1 in his only appearance in 2015.
Freshmen Matt Carney, Brice Hogue, Jake Gotham and sophomore Parker Kosh round out the Cardinal rotation.
“Those guys are going to mix in and be starter or reliever, wherever we need them at,” George said.
When Miller isn’t pitching he’ll start at first base. He was 2-for-8 at the plate last season.
Senior Kyle Root will play second base and move over to first when Miller is on the hill. He can also play outfield when needed. Root had just one plate appearance last season.
Kosh will start at shortstop and Carney also will see time in the middle infield. Kosh did not record an at bat as a freshman.
“Parker has done a nice job,” George said. “He's really worked hard all off season. All throughout training camp he has stepped up and has showed he can be a leader. Matt Carney will play in the middle infield as well. We’re going to platoon those guys.”
Gotham and Hogue will split time at third.
Hershberger is slotted to start behind the plate.
“Blake Hershberger has improved a lot over the off season,” George said. “He's a big strong kid. I think he's going to fill the hole behind the dish.”
Senior Tyler Carroll leads a young group of outfielders.
He’ll start in left field while juniors Trent Mast and Brandon Nevison will start in center and right field, respectively.
“Brandon Nevison is going to play right field for us. As a JV, he was an infielder/catcher. He's a gung-ho kid. He's willing to make the transition and has done pretty well for us,” George said. “Trent Mast is going to start in center. He's getting better every day. In left field we're going to go with Tyler Carroll. He has worked really hard.”
While George expects his team to get better as the season progresses, he’s also a realist and knows his pitchers are going to have to mature at a much faster pace than the position players.
“We have to pitch and we have to pitch well and throw strikes and throw a lot of ground balls for us to be in contention,” he said. “That's kind of been our Achilles Heel the past few years is the pitching. Last season it kind of came around. I think it's going to come around this year but for us to compete for the league title we're going to have to pitch and pitch really well.”