PADEN CITY -- After going 17-13 during the 2016 season, the Wildcats feel this may be their year.
"We are excited about baseball in Paden City," Coach Brent Croasmun said. "We have a great group of kids who love to play baseball. Yes, we lost some good players from last year, but we still have a good nucleus back who we expect to continue our success. We may not be as good offensively this year as a team, but we'll still try and get the ball in play. We do have some hitters. Our focus will be to be better defensively and improve on our pitching."
Replacing a player like Luke Cooper, who is now a member of the West Liberty Hilltoppers and was a four-year letterman at Paden City, will be a factor the team will have to contend with this season. Also gone are starting catcher Michael Wilcox and pitcher/outfielder Andrew Dennis, neither of whom will be easy to replace.
Photo by Ed Parsons
Wildcats’ seniors (left to right) Jake Pierce, Aaron Heasley, Hayden Hizer and Blaine Mitchell.
That said, Croasmun has a fine group of returnees and plenty of talent, so the Wildcats' are ready to play.
Last season, they were the OVAC Runner-Up, Region 1, Section 2, runner-up and the Mason-Dixon Champions. While that may seem like a big order this season, the Wildcats are not satisfied and want to advance even farther in the state tournament.
Pitching may actually be one of the Wildcats strong points, with seniors Hayden Hizer and Aaron Heasley leading the way.
"We have two sophomore pitchers who looked good in fall ball this year in Trey Slider and Matt Saxon," Croasmun said. "Pitching is the name of the game in baseball and these two should really give us the boost we need."
As always Paden City will face some very good opponents, but the goal remains the same.
"Make the OVAC Tournament, win the sectional," Croasmun said. "The sectional tournament will be different this year with Paden City, Magnolia, Tyler Consolidated, Ritchie Country and St. Marys making up the field."
Hizer led all returnees in stats from last year as he went.366 from the plate with 30 hits, 18 RBI's 12 doubles, two triples and four home runs. He also recorded 26 steals.
Heasley added a .272 batting average with 24 RBI's and 28 hits. He had four doubles and seven stolen bases.
Besides Hizer and Heasley, making things interesting for the Wildcats will be a couple other seniors. Jake Pierce will contend for time in the outfield as will Blaine Mitchell.
Junior Kolton Elliott came up big at the plate last year hitting .299 with 20 RBI's, 23 hits, six doubles and two home runs. Elliott plays a solid third base and will also provide extra pitching for the Wildcats. The other returning junior is Marcus Allen, who will be counted on to step up and make some big plays in the outfield. Allen is a talented player who can get hot at the plate as he recorded 11 hits and 14 RBI's as a sophomore. Look for him to improve on last season's .234 batting.
Sophomores to watch are Ryan Cross, Slider and Saxon.
Cross is likely to be the starting catcher and should be able to fill the void left by Wilcox' graduation.
Slider is primed and ready to take to the mound as well as handle the first base chores. Last season, he scored 17 runs, had 14 hits, and knocked in 22 runners. Slider brings a lot of skill to the game and should be solid wherever he at.
Saxon will play short stop when Hizer is on the mound and can also play outfield where he landed a starting job last season as a freshman. He will also be used on the mound.
Others competing for playing time will be Junior David Joy, sophomores Jordan Stackpole and E.J. Weber and Anthony Newman, freshmen Clayton Thomas, Jake Amos and Bradley Baker.
The Wildcats are led by Coach Croasmun and Assisted by Jeff Hohn.
They will start their season at home on Monday at 5 p.m. against the Hundred Hornets.