The Elkhart baseball team reached the near-pinnacle of the state’s baseball world last season, earning the program’s first state tournament in almost 20 years before falling in heartbreaking fashion to eventual champions Jarrell in the state semifinals.
Elsewhere, Palestine made a long-awaited return to the postseason, while Cayuga continued its strong run with a regional semifinal appearance.
Those three and countless others return to the diamond Monday with the official start of the 2013 baseball season. As that trio tries to return to the postseason, squads like Westwood and Frankston will hope to join them in the playoffs.
Below is a preview of the area’s 2013 baseball season, with each team’s overall and district record in parentheses when available:
For the first time since 2005, the Palestine baseball program was playoff-bound in 2012. But, that team will look slightly different from the one that takes the field in 2013.
The main difference will be in the dugout, where former pitching coach Austin Evans takes the reins of the program after former coach Joey Mason’s move into administration.
Evans returns a wealth of talent from 2012, including star slugger Austin Brown and battle-tested pitchers Chico Herod and Brian Gummelt, along with do-it-all sophomore Ryan Zavala.
That veteran pitching staff will be the rock that Palestine leans on in 2013 as the Wildcats hope to replace all three outfielders and their starting third baseman, all of whom were lost to graduation.
SEASON OPENER: 4:30 p.m. Monday, vs. Malakoff (JV, V)
For the first time in their high school careers, the current crop of Westwood upperclassmen will go into a season with the same head coach.
WHS coach James Cashion is hoping that stability helps his team, which started last season 5-4 before faltering mightily down the stretch.
But, realignment and the drop to Class 2A did the Westwood baseball program no favors. Westwood now calls District 19-2A home, along with state semifinalist Elkhart, regional finalist Central Heights and perennial playoff power Crockett.
Cashion will lean on his seniors, led by Lane Stringfield (P, INF) to help lead what could prove to be a young Panther team in 2013, and Cashion also expects Andrew Flowers, who pitched on the JV last season, to improve the pitching staff.
SEASON OPENER: 6 p.m. Monday, at Frankston