The Ottawa Pirates are confident heading into their 2019 campaign.
"Right now, the confidence on the mound we have is a strength, and our confidence at the plate is," Pirates first-year head coach Brent Moore said. "I just feel like the energy is high and the mentality is in the right place to start the season."
Moore, who coached at the sophomore level for eight years before taking 2018 off, welcomes back 11 players — including eight regulars — from last year's 16-16 varsity team and inherits a senior-heavy, 16-player roster.
"It's a really weird dynamic we have this year," Moore said in reference to his club's makeup, which consists of a dozen seniors, three juniors and a sophomore, "and there's not many varsity teams, really probably in the state, that have that many seniors and that least amount of experience. Whether they got a ton of experience or not, they were at least around 30-plus varsity baseball games, so they know what to expect.
"Our No. 1 strength is the senior leadership ... and I'd say this team as a whole, their baseball IQ is pretty high. ... Their focus in practice has been really good indoors the first two weeks — we've been really working on the little things ... that are momentum changers — and you can tell that they have the ambition to listen and want to be coached, and they want that to lead to some success and winning baseball games and having that good camaraderie that a team needs."
Moore lists 13 pitchers on his roster.
Senior southpaws Jared Herzog (2-3, 5.13 ERA in 30 IP) and Tyler Carson will be near the top of the rotation and relied upon to hurl the bulk of the innings, particularly in conference play. Sophomore Jace Addis will fill a big spot on the mound and be another primary pitcher. Seniors Alex Stevenson (5-3, 5.47 ERA in 47 1/3 IP) and Ben Lundy (4-3, 1 save, 4.31 ERA in 39 IP), along with junior Kadon Harth all are expected to provide contributions on the hill as well.
The pitchers are working under the tutelage of Don Phillis — a Streatorite and Marquette High School all-stater who pitched at the Division I level for the University of Illinois-Chicago in the mid/late 2000s — and Gentry Nordstrom.
"I would say the pitchers as a whole have a winning mentality," said Moore, "and (the staff is) also a nice little mix of righties and lefties."
Behind the dish will be senior leader and returning starter Matt Mezel. At first base — a position that boasts plenty of depth — will be a "healthy" senior John Bruner (.291 BA), a three-year varsity player. The middle infield will be strong with seniors Wyatt Hiil (.391 BA, 2 3B, 4 2B, 15 RBIs, 14 R; Times All-Area First Team) — a sure-handed fielder who will likely bat leadoff — and third-year starter Lundy (.244 BA, 2 3B, 6 2B, 11 RBIs, 23 R) at second base and shortstop, respectively. Stevenson will man the hot corner.
In the outfield will be Addis in left, Herzog (.370 BA, 3B, 7 2B, 17 RBIs, 19 R; All-NIB 12 West First Team) patrolling center when not pitching and Addis there when he is, and Harth, who was a varsity call-up as a 10th-grader and is oozing with confidence, in right.
Moore added that senior utility player Bradley Ruger will play a really important role.
"I think we're going to be a contact team; we're going to try to put pressure on the defense ourselves. We're going to play some small ball," Moore said.
The remainder of the roster is seniors Noah Gould (P), speedster Nolan McCoy (OF), Thor Rick (IF/C/P) and Peter Walsh (OF), along with juniors Nolen Miller (OF/P) and John Vandervort (OF/IF/P).
The Pirates' goals are clear: win conference and a regional.
"I definitely think we can win conference, I think we can win a regional," said Moore, whose other assistants are Tyler Wargo and Neil Hanley, "but it starts with focusing on one game at a time all the way down to one pitch at a time and having the confidence to win games. And, I mean, you've got to have fun. ...
"If we're having fun and playing with confidence, that's what baseball is all about; we will win games."
No. Name Pos. Yr.
1 Noah Gould P Sr.
3 Bradley Ruger IF/P Sr.
4 Matt Mezel C Sr.
5 Nolan McCoy OF Sr.
7 John Bruner IF Sr.
8 John Vandervort OF/IF/P Jr.
9 Alex Stevenson IF/P Sr.
10 Wyatt Hill IF/P Sr.
11 Ben Lundy IF/P Sr.
13 Nolen Miller OF/P Jr.
14 Peter Walsh OF/P Sr.
18 Jared Herzog OF/P Sr.
20 Thor Rick IF/C/P Sr.
23 Tyler Carson IF/OF/P Sr.
24 Kadon Harth IF/OF/P Jr.
27 Jace Addis OF/P So.
Head coach: Brent Moore (1st season)