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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Slugging Knights gunning for title

Friday, April 1, 2011

(Photo)
The Northview Knights return 10 seniors to a team that won 23 games last season. Zac Niehaus (pictured) was an all-state honorable mention after last season.
By CAREY FOX

Times Sports Editor

The Northview baseball team should be one of the most exciting squads in the area this season and there's plenty of reasons to consider the Knights a contender to make a run in the postseason.

The Knights return 10 seniors from a team that was 23-6 last season and is ranked 16th in Class 4A's preseason poll.

Much of the starting lineup returns from a team that set the school record for team batting average (.389), while narrowly missing the record for runs scored with 264, which works out to an average of more than nine runs per contest.

"We are excited about this year's team. We bring back a ton of experience from last year's conference championship team," head coach Scott McDonald said. "That experience is a very important factor to take that step to a sectional title. We also have to rely on playing excellent defense again this year. Since we took over the program, our focus has moved to team speed and defense. These factors have played a major part in our success and hope to this year as well."

Speed will certainly be a key for the Knights this year as four players return after registering double-digit stolen bases last year.

Honorable mention all-state player Zac Niehaus returns to the heart of the lineup and will typically man one of the outfield spots and could pitch at times too.

Niehaus hit a robust .505 with 46 hits in 91 at-bats and has the power to go with that average as he pounded out five home runs, 15 doubles and four triples while slugging .923, driving in 44 runs and stealing 18 bases.

He is surrounded by plenty of experience too as fellow seniors Andrew Butts (.404 BA, 11 2B, three 3B and two HR), Joey Thomas (.403 BA, seven 2B), Seth Lunsford (.324 BA, three HR, 18 RBI) each return.

Fellow seniors Carson Kleiber and Caleb Mershon return to the mix and will each see time on the mound for Northview.

Butts will play a utility role and can bat leadoff and scored 30 times last year. Thomas will man second base for the Knights with Lunsford returning at catcher.

The junior class is plenty talented as well with Kodie Girton (.410 BA, 11 SB) returning at one of the outfield spots when he's not pitching and Zach Hull (.442, 11 2B, 35 RBI) holding down first base. TJ Decker (.246) will pitch and play shortstop for the Knights.

"We have a chance to be more prolific offensively this year. We can run eight or nine guys out in our lineup that can hit the ball out," McDonald said. "Combine our power with the speed and we could put up some scary numbers. This is important for us to continue to put pressure on the defense. We have set some lofty offensive goals for the season and we have the ability to reach those goals."

The pitching staff lost some experience as Craig Bell transferred to North Central (Farmersburg), but also gets Mershon back after he did not play last season.

Girton pitched a team-high 41 1/3 innings last year with a 3.48 ERA and a 6-2 record, striking out 63 while walking just 16. He'll be joined by Decker, who threw 39 innings over eight appearances with a 5-1 mark that included a save and a 3.00 ERA.

Craig Peters will also see time on the mound along with Coleman Craig and Brock Wheeler and Niehaus.

"We are very excited about our pitching. Kodie and TJ will get a lot of innings, but Caleb Mershon returns and provides us a huge lift on the mound," McDonald said. "We will also get innings from Carson Kleiber, Craig Peters, Brock Wheeler, Coleman Craig, Zac Niehaus, and others. The important thing is that we have a lot of guys that can throw strikes. That is important for us to allow our defense to make the plays."

While the Knights lost the big bat and pitching of Caleb Mason along with key bench contributors, Jordan Allen and Roy Brown along with the speed of Drake Stevenson, McDonald feels confident that he'll have players step up from a very successful 'B' and 'C' team last season.

"Losing a First Team All-State player in Caleb, along with the great production that Roy and Jordan brought for us on the bench is going to be tough to replace," McDonald said. "We are looking at options at third right now, with Andrew Butts, Curtis Grove, or Conner Pierce stepping in to third base. We actually are going to be deeper on the bench this year as we have continued to develop guys to step up when we need them. Some of the players coming up this year are Devin Harvey, Jordan King, Tyler Wilson, Tanner Glenn, and Bryant Pestoff."

The Knights open the season this afternoon with a pair of games at home in a round robin format as Western Boone and North Vermillion visit. Northview takes on Western Boone beginning at 11 a.m.

Northview High School Boys Varsity Baseball

Thur. 3/24at Crawfordsville (Scrimmage)5 p.m.
Sat. 4/2vs Western Boone Junior-Senior High School11 a.m.
Sat. 4/2vs North Vermillion/Western Boone1:30 p.m.
Sat. 4/2vs North Vermillion HS4 p.m.
Tue. 4/5at Clay City Jr/Sr. HS5 p.m.
Thur. 4/7at Homestead (at Rose Hulman)6 p.m.
Fri. 4/8vs Martinsville HS5 p.m.
Sat. 4/9vs Mount Vernon HS12 p.m.
Tue. 4/12at Bloomington North HS5:30 p.m.
Thur. 4/14vs Shakamak Jr/Sr. HS7 p.m.
Sat. 4/16at Plainfield HS11 a.m.
Tue. 4/19at Sullivan HS5 p.m.
Sat. 4/23vs Northview Invitational10 a.m.
Sat. 4/23vs Northview Invitational3 p.m.
Tue. 4/26vs Brown County HS6:30 p.m.
Wed. 4/27at Mooresville HS5 p.m.
Tue. 5/3at West Vigo HS 6 p.m.
Fri. 5/6vs Edgewood High HS5 p.m.
Sat. 5/7at Big Four Tourney9 a.m.
Tue. 5/10vs South Vermillion HS6 p.m.
Fri. 5/13at Owen Valley HS5 p.m.
Sat. 5/14vs Danville Community HS11 a.m.
Tue. 5/17at Vincennes Lincoln HS6 p.m.
Fri. 5/20at Greyhound Invitational8:30 p.m.
Fri. 5/20at Carmel HS8:30 p.m.
Sat. 5/21at Greyhound Invitational10 a.m.
Mon. 5/23vs Greencastle HS7 p.m.
Thur. 5/26at IHSAA Baseball Sectional5 p.m.
Fri. 5/57at IHSAA Baseball Sectional5 p.m.
Sat. 5/28at IHSAA Baseball SectionalTBA
Mon. 5/30at IHSAA Baseball SectionalTBA
Sat. 6/4at IHSAA Baseball RegionalTBA
Sat. 6/11at IHSAA Semi-StateTBA
Sat. 6/18at IHSAA Semi-StateTBA