By Chris Chaney
A new cast of Milford Eagles will be charged with continuing the success that the 2013-14 team accomplished after head coach Tom Kilgore saw 11 players graduate out of the program last spring.
With four returning starters and a pitcher back in the rotation as well, Kilgore isn’t selling a sinking ship. In fact, quite the opposite, especially given where those returning players will be on the lineup card.
“The core that we return is a nice core because it’s a pitcher, a catcher, a shortstop and the guys who are going to play at first base and second base,” he said. “Senior Hunter Losekamp, who’s going to UC next year, returns behind the plate. He’s a three-year starter. Andrew Minton is a four-year varsity player and three-year starter; he’ll play shortstop. Ty Helton is a three-year varsity player who will play first baseman for us and hit in the middle of the order. Then, we have two pitchers who are going to split time at second base: Tristan Lana and Justin Arnold.”
Arnold will be the staff ace coming into the year, Kilgore said, and Lana will evolve from a relief pitching role last year into a starter this season for the Eagles.
With four position spots unaccounted for and an entire outfield that was lost to graduation, Kilgore said that junior John Malott will take on the center field role.
Kilgore said that despite Malott being a newcomer, he expects him to be a key component in solidifying a strong outfield.
Sophomore Brad Hall will take over the hot corner after getting some late-season experience at the varsity level during his freshman campaign. Kilgore expects Hall to bring some pop to the offensive side of the ball as well.
Like many teams around the area, the harsh winter has put a damper on some of Milford’s preseason preparation, but Kilgore doesn’t see his team at any real disadvantage.
“Obviously, the weather was a challenge,” he explained. “Going into tryouts, I’d say we probably had done less than we have in the past or accomplished less than we have in the past. Since that time, we’ve scrimmaged twice — Lakota West and a team from Northern Ohio, Elmwood — and done some intersquad and played a 30-inning game, so we’ve been out on the field a decent amount since we selected our team.
“Plus, we’ve been out on the turf football field a couple of times. Going into the first scrimmage, we weren’t very well prepared and didn’t play that well, but since that time, we’ve got a decent amount of repetitions out on the field.
“It’s all relative. Everybody’s going to be in the same boat.”
The Eagles will have a few chances to get some game action before their Eastern Cincinnati Conference title defense gets put to the test against Turpin on Monday, April 7. The first Turpin match up will be played at the University of Cincinnati as part of the Skyline Chili Reds Futures High School Showcase.
As for the rest of the ECC, Milford isn’t expecting any favors from their conference opponents this season.
“It’s going to be a very competitive league from top to bottom,” Kilgore said. “There’s not going to be a bottom-feeder-type team. On any given day, every one will have a chance to beat you.
“I hope that we’re in a position that we can contend for a league title. Loveland is returning a good nucleus; Kings is returning a good nucleus as well as is Anderson. I think it’s going to be a battle between those four teams for a league championship.”
The Eagles lost their season-opener on Monday, March 31 to CHCA and played La Salle on Tuesday. Milford hosts St. Xavier on Thursday, April 3 and will play La Salle again on Saturday in the ECC/GCL Challenge at Western Hills High School.