PREP BASEBALL: VVC teams hope to build on past success

Mar. 9—Last year's postseason may have given a glimpse of what is to come for area baseball this season.

For the Vermilion Valley Conference, Oakwood, Salt Fork, Armstrong-Potomac, Milford and Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin were in regional finals with Oakwood, Armstrong-Potomac and Milford winning regionals and Milford winning a sectional title.

The conference as a whole is pretty solid," Oakwood coach Ryan McFarland said. "Bismarck returns a lot of talent, Westville returns a lot of talent, Armstrong returns a lot of talent, Milford returns a lot of talent. There is a lot of talent in the conference. It seems like our conference just finds a way to win regionals and you had three or four teams that won them."

For the Comets, they lose some key seniors, but McFarland said they do bring experience in all areas back.

"We have Brody Taflinger, who played Second, but will be at short this eyar. You have Alec Harrison, who was our No. 3 pitcher last year, you have Chsee Harrison, who was our leftfielder and with some of the injuries, you have Derek Drews, who played second for us, Cort Vermilion, who played right and left field and you have Bryson Marcinko, who caught for us last year.

McFarland is looking for younger players to make a move this year.

"Jackson Dudley has had a lot of JV reps and he will be an anchor on third, You have Loudyn Hughes, who played a little varsity last year, and will be one of our pitchers. We have two freshmen who could helps us, but we will see how they handle the reps and see how that works out.

The Comets beat Westville for the conference title and in the regional tournament. Westville coach Joe Brazas said that the team is ready for a new chapter.

"Oakwood got us twice in two great games. We learn from it, turned the page and we are ready to go," Westville coach Joe Brazas said. "We lost some key names in Ethan McMasters, who was All-State last year and Landon Haurez hit and pitched the ball well for us and Jonah Smith. We lost those three but we have a good freshman class coming up with some athletes that could start."

But Brazas has key seniors who are willing to make that new chapter a winning one.

"Our senior leaders are Drew Wichtowski, that is going to Parkland and we have Cade Schuamburg, who is a four-year starter and Zach Russell, who signed with DACC," Brazas said. "They have been four-year starters and they are great hitters and they make up a lot of our infield."

Along with the seniors, they bring in a big piece in junior Cam Steinbaugh, who spent the last two years at Georgetown-Ridge Farm

"He beat us his freshman year and that was the year we won the conference," Brazas said. "His work ethic and his overall knowledge of the game helps a lot."

Brazas is also counting on young players with the addition of a full junior varsity team.

"I coached the Junior High also, so there is quite a few good players," Brazas said. "We are going to have 3-4 freshmen in the outfield with Ben Johnson in leftfield, we have a multi-sport player in Easton Bowlin, he plays center field and in right field, we have Alec Davis and we also have Chance Quick, so we are blessed with arms because nearly the entire team can pitch, so I think we will be competitive.

"We have 10-11 pitchers. Now will all of them pitch? — No — But a majority of them will at some time this season. When you play a 32-33 game schedule and play 5-6 games a week, you may have to that deep. We have 23 ball players, so we have a full JV team, so we can play JV along with Varsity and that can only help and grow."

Brazas said he will need all of the help he can get because of a conference that is full of top teams.

"Bismarck will always be tough because they started slow and then beat St. Joe in the regional semifinals and it was shocking how better they got as the year went along, so I expect them to get better," Brazas said. "Don't count out Armstrong-Potomac because they have good pitching with Kollin Asbury.

"(BHRA coach Mark) Dodd and (Armstrong-Potomac coach) Wade Rogers are great coaches and Milford coach( Greg) Dewurff has won their regionals the last few years, so they are some great teams."

The Tigers will start the season on Wednesday against Danville. The Vikings are coming off a tough season, but ended up with a win in regional play that could bring a spark for this season.