By Chris Chaney
For the three-time defending Southern Buckeye Conference National Division champion Batavia Bulldogs’ baseball team, expectations have only been ratcheted up heading into the 2013 season as Coach Geoff Carter’s squad returns nine seniors from last season’s sectional semifinal team.
“We have high expectations, higher than I think what these kids are used to,” Carter said. “We shouldn’t be satisfied with just winning the league. This group of kids should have their eyes set on something better than that and I think we can do that. We have nine seniors on the team that have played together the last four years, they played on the same summer team, which makes for pretty close group.
“So, our expectations are beyond the first round; we want to win some games in the tournament, that’s the main goal.”
The Bulldogs’ senior leadership will be a major factor in what type of postseason run Batavia can make. Two players in particular — Austin Lenhardt and Ryan Gormley — will be the motor that drives the Bulldogs.
The pair has already taken down numerous school records over their first three seasons in green and white and have been honored locally and beyond for their standout play. Gormley has been showered with accolades, including being named the Player of the Year in the SBC both of the last two years.
“You’ve got a couple guys who are becoming household names, your Lenhardt and Gormley,” Carter said. “Obviously, they’re going to carry the team. We expect big things out of Ryan and Austin as well as Tyler Luginbuhl on the mound.”
Luginbuhl will head up a solid rotation of pitchers that Carter and the Bulldogs will run out on any given day.
“I would call (Luginbuhl) 1A and 1B would have to be Kyle Schmitgen,” Carter said. “(Schmitgen) is looking really good. I only have seniors and juniors. I think we have some juniors that will give us some innings, but we’re led by the senior staff.”
Carter is looking to fill some holes left by five graduating seniors and headlining the junior class could be Batavia’s answer to a utility player.
“We have some juniors, two of them started last year, but one was on JV, Kyle Grant,” Carter said. “He’s really impressed. He’s a back-up catcher, he’s a back-up infielder, he’ll play outfield,and he might be able to pitch. He can play all nine spots and he’s probably going to end up playing all of them.”
The plethora of talent and experience taking the field for the Bulldogs should help to nullify some of the preseason setbacks caused by the weather. However, fortunately for Batavia, the Bulldogs have formed a relationship with the Midland Redskins that allowed them to use their facilities when snow was covering their field.
“If it wasn’t for the Midland Redskins indoor facility and their generosity to let us go in there two days a week and hit and pitch off the mounds, we would be in a tough spot,” Carter said. “The gym has been as crowded as I’ve seen it. We could have JV, varsity (baseball), JV softball, varsity softball and other things happening in the gym. One gym facility is tough to work with, but I try to break it up whether we’re doing infielding or outfielding in the parking lot when we can and then pitching and hitting have been primarily at Midland. I can’t say enough about their generosity and how much it’s helped us.”
With the weather finally beginning to cooperate, the Bulldogs got their season underway on Saturday, March 30, but fell to McNicholas 7-1. Although playing conditions were not ideal, they were passable and look to only improve as Spring finally overtakes the seemingly never-ending Winter of 2012-13.
The Bulldogs hope their output rises with the temperature as they get into a grueling stretch of games, that will see Batavia playing eight times in the next 13 days beginning with an SBC game on April 4 vs. Felicity-Franklin.