Times Sports Editor
The Northview baseball program has had a long and successful history over the years, but you'll have to forgive second-year coach Scott McDonald if he's expecting something special from this year's edition.
The Knights lost three players to graduation from last year, but returns most of the components of a team that rang up a number of school records during a 16-13 season. Northview set team records for doubles, triples and stolen bases last year and the Knights could perhaps re-set those marks this year.
"The expectations are as high for this team as any team I have been associated with in nearly 20 years of coaching baseball," McDonald said. "We lost three key members from last year's team, but considering the youth that we played at the varsity level last year, we gained tremendous experience for this season."
The Knights return two-thirds of its starting lineup, including the top three batters in an order that wreaked havoc with its speed and aggressive style.
Andrew Butts returns as a utility player and was the leadoff hitter last year while hitting better than .370 and stealing 17 bases and scoring 21 times for the Knights. Butts was followed in the sectional lineup by Caleb Mason, who hit .420 with 34 runs scored and 25 RBI to go with 20 stolen bases. He'll also be the Knights' No. 1 starter on the mound as the Olney Central signee has the velocity and arsenal of pitches to baffle the opposition.
Hitting third and patrolling centerfield last year was Zac Niehaus, who stole 35 bases last year while hitting a robust .480 and driving in 32 runs.
Stevenson hit .364 with speed to spare at the bottom of the Knights order and Girton matched his average with some pop in his bat as well.
Rounding out the infield will be Joey Thoas at second base along with shortstop T.J. Decker with Mason and Jordan Allen splitting duties at third. Roy Brown and Seth Lunsford will share catching duties.
McDonald feels that his team's prowess at the plate continues to be built during the offseason and that the players' work ethic is second-to-none.
"We go through such a rigorous pre-season program with so much emphasis on speed and strength development that the work ethic is either there, or the ones without the work ethic remove themselves," McDonald said. "We have a lot of horses in the stable that we are going to run out there and can handle anything that we could possibly face."
With a talented 'B' and 'C' team last year, the Knights have enough depth to make most any team a bit jealous. What might be most important is how the team shakes out defensively, which has also been a focus during the pre-season.
"We have a luxury and a problem at the same time, we are extremely deep at all positions," McDonald said. "Settling on a lineup has presented the coaching staff a real challenge, but that is a good problem to have. Defensively, we have an outstanding group of kids that simply make every play. We take great pride in our defense, we spend a tremendous amount of time building arm strength and mechanics of defense."
The team's focus on defense is obviously enjoyed by the pitching staff, which will also have quality depth. The Knights did lose their workhorse, in Lawson, to graduation, but returns Mason along with Craig Bell, TJ Decker and Girton, who all saw plenty of mound time. JT Jeffries also figures into the mix along with Carson Kleiber and Niehaus.
"Pitching wise, our staff will be anchored by Caleb Mason and Craig Bell. We have worked hard to create depth at this most pivotal position," McDonald said. "JT Jeffries, Kodie Girton, TJ Decker, Carson Kleiber, and Zac Niehaus will all play critical roles in our team's success. The defense that we can play will make them much more likely to succeed. We have focused on movement and control getting ready for the season. They are all on concrete pitch counts to make certain that we are ready for the tournament."
With so many important cogs back, McDonald and his players have some pretty lofty goals starting with dethroning another solid West Vigo team from the top of the conference.
"Our goals are very simple, a conference championship, a sectional championship, all the way through a state championship," McDonald said. "We are very strong at all aspects of the game, we just have to be able to handle the pressure. This is without question, the best team that Northview has put on the field in it's 25 years of existence."
The Knights open up the season with a pair of games at home starting with an 11 a.m. start with Western Boone.
2010 Northview varsity baseball
|April 3||vs. Western Boone||11 a.m.|
|Vs. N. Vermillion||4 p.m.|
|April 6||vs. Clay City||5 p.m.|
|April 9||at Martinsville||5 p.m.|
|April 10||at Mt. Vernon||noon|
|April 13||vs. Bloomington North||5 p.m.|
|April 15||at Shakamak||7 p.m.|
|April 17||vs. Plainfield||11 a.m.|
|April 20||vs. Sullivan||5 p.m.|
|April 24||Northview Invite||10 a.m.|
|April 27||at Brown County||6:30 p.m.|
|April 28||vs. Mooresville||5 p.m.|
|May 4||vs. West Vigo||6 p.m.|
|May 7||at Edgewood||5 p.m.|
|May 8||at Big Four Tourney||10 a.m.|
At T.H. South
|May 11||at S.Vermillion||5 p.m.|
|May 14||vs. Owen Valley||6 p.m.|
|May 15||at Danville||11 a.m.|
|May 18||vs. Vincennes Lincoln||6 p.m.|
|May 21||at Greyhound Invite||7 p.m.|
|May 22||at Greyhound Invite||10 a.m.|
|May 25||at Greencastle||7 p.m.|
|May 27-29||at Sectional||5 p.m.|
At T.H. North