Spring is officially here, which means eye black and cleats are a part of the dress code for high school baseball and softball athletes. We’re already beyond a week into the 2017 season, and here are some things you need to know about teams this year.
St. X comes into this season with a target on their back. After winning the state championship last season and a state-record seventh overall, Coach Andy Porta and the Tigers will look to defend their title as a team that prides itself on its defense. Players to watch for in this year’s senior class are pitcher Connor Holden, who has signed with Murray State; outfielder Sam Hedges, who is going to Northern Kentucky; Southern Indiana signee outfielder Sam Mudd; and infielder Chris Esselman, who has signed with Centre.
Coach Porta, whose philosophy is reloading, not rebuilding, has a team off to a hot start. The Tigers are already 7-1 on the year (five of those wins being shutouts), while only allowing 2.3 runs a game.
Well, their only loss this season has come at the hands of Trinity. The rivalry between the two is always special regardless of the sport. This year, the Shamrocks started the season winning their first six games of the year, with three shut-out victories and scoring double digit runs in all but one game. Filled with experience, you can expect Trinity to be in some state title conversations. A few seniors leading the way will be junior catcher/infielder Ben Metzinger, who has committed to Louisville and senior pitcher Brandon Pfaadt, who has signed with Bellarmine.
In the sixth region, Bullitt East, who has a young group this year, is off to a 6-0 start, and North Bullitt is 4-2, with early losses to St. Xavier and DeSales in shutouts.
Also, keep an eye out for Ballard. The Bruins are 4-0 to start the year, and senior pitcher/outfielder Jordan Adell has signed with Louisville and has been projected as a first-round pick in the Major League Baseball Draft in June.
In softball, it’s the Male Lady Bulldogs with the target on their back. Coach Josh Bloomer and his team will be looking to capture their fifth straight seventh region title with the hopes of hoisting a state title at the end of the year.
“We don’t shy away from having a target on our back when we’re playing in this city and when we’re playing the majority of the teams in the state,” says Bloomer. “It’s just a compliment to all the players who’ve played in the program prior to this group and what they’ve done. My biggest goal is to put them out there on any given day and do my job to make sure they’re motivated to play to the best of their abilities.”
Male will start the season without senior pitcher and Murray State signee Olivia Suski, who had surgery on her pitching arm. She went 22-7 last season with a 2.07 ERA. She looks forward to returning around the end of April.
In the sixth region, Bullitt East will again rely heavily on the arm of Taylor Roby. The junior pitcher, who’s committed to the University of Louisville, was a flamethrower last season. She went 23-5 with a 1.15 ERA, to go along with 14 home runs and 50 RBIs.
And you can’t forget about Butler, coached by Brittany Braun. The Bearettes went 25-7-1 last year, coming up short in the sixth region tournament to Holy Cross (Louisville). But they return seniors in pitcher/shortstop Hailey Whitmer, who has signed with Northern Kentucky and senior pitcher/shortstop in Annabelle Ramirez, who has signed with Lindsey Wilson.
Ballard went 25-9-2 last year before losing to Male in the seventh region tournament. They look to get major contributions from senior Catie Barber, who has signed with the University of Louisville. Last season, she batted .392.
Butler’s Annabelle Ramirez (sixth) and Male’s Olivia Suski (seventh) are both ranked No. 1 in the top 10 players of their region. Both teams are scheduled to play May 2 at Male High School at 7 p.m.
It looks to be another thrilling season in high school baseball and softball. VT