Times Sports Editor
The 2007 season was an anomaly for the Northview baseball program.
The Knights suffered through their first losing season since 2000 and a 12-13 record was the program's first non-20 win season since 2001.
But there is plenty of reasons to believe that this year will be much different as Northview has added a talented group of freshman and return one of its top arms who was unable to pitch due to injury.
Perhaps the biggest key to regaining the form that saw the program go 115-29 from 2002-06 is pitching.
The Knights get back senior hurler Curtis Peters who missed last year after surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow.
Peters went 8-1 during the 2006 season with a 3.26 ERA and struck out 55 batters in 62 innings.
Joining him will be an experienced staff that includes senior Ryne Barr, junior Brock Lawson and Nick Lancaster.
"I think this group can win for us," said Witham. "I hate that he missed a year," said Witham of Peters' injury. "He pitched well this summer and did a good job rehabbing."
Barr threw 38 innings last year for the Knights with a 3.68 ERA, but will have to limit his free passes after allowing 22 walks and 14 wild pitches last year.
Lancaster had a strong summer on the mound by compiling a 2.26 ERA in 21 2/3 innings and Lawson limited opponents to a 2.40 ERA over 23 1/3 frames.
That summer slate of 22 games gave the team a chance to evaluate themselves against some stout competition that included perennial power Brownsburg (twice), Carmel and Indianapolis' North Central (twice), Roncalli (twice) and Perry Meridian (twice).
The team also showed some grit during a 4th of July Tourney that saw them fall into the losers' bracket early, but rebound for a second place finish. What makes the finish even more impressive is that the Knights had to play a remarkable five games on the final day, beating Mooresville 8-5, Avon 5-1, New Palestine 5-4 and North Central 6-5 before falling a single-run short in the title game, 5-4.
Six seniors plan on continuing that momentum into the 2008 season and are gunning for a sectional title as the postseason returns to Northview in May.
Anchoring the offense will be senior catcher Keaton Robertson who hit .413 last year on the way to being named All-WIC. He also slugged .675, with a team-high 54 total bases and was second on the team with 18 stolen bases.
At first base will be a combination of Peters, senior Cody Crooks or Barr depending on the pitching situation on a given day.
Matt Nodley returns as second base for his junior year after hitting .263 last year, but committed just two errors in 21 games.
Barr and Lancaster will each see time at shortstop for the Knights and the seniors will be looked to at the plate as well.
Barr hit .409 during the summer with 22 runs scored and 16 RBI and Lancaster hit at a .250 clip in just 20 at-bats.
Witham mentioned that his team will need to be disciplined at the plate for the Knights to have a resurgent year.
"We've got to be more patient at the plate," said Witham in his 31st season. "We have to make more contact and put the ball in play. We have to have fewer K's. We'll see how the next week goes."
Kyle Pestoff hit .373 during the summer and drove in 10 runs and was on-base more than 60 percent of the time.
He'll continue duties at third base along with senior Dylan Kruse, who had 45 at-bats during the summer slate and hit .222.
Logan Kile could also fit into the mix in the infield rotation.
The outfield will be interchangeable with Lawson, Lancaster, Crooks, Kruse or sophomores Drake Stevenson and Broc Potter getting time.
According to Witham, a defense that helped set up 81 unearned runs, will be much improved.
"I think our pitchers have confidence in these guys," said the Knights' head coach.
There is also a crop of 14 freshmen that Witham feels could make an impact later on during the season along with 11 sophomores.
As always, West Vigo will be one of the favorites to win the Western Indiana Conference, but Witham also pointed to Edgewood and Brown County as being a factor.
"I'd like to think we can be one of the contenders," commented Witham. "Our pitching has to come through. We expect Keaton, Crooks and Barr to hit for us, but we need some other guys to hit for us too."
But when it came down to it, Witham was focused on turning things around for his current group of seniors.
"I felt bad for the seniors last year. Our schedule was tougher and we lost some tough games that easily could have reversed our record," said Witham. "This is a great group of kids and our seniors have done a good job of setting the right example for the younger guys."
The host Clay City to open the season on Tuesday night at 5 p.m.