By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
---- — MIDDLETOWN — Shenandoah isn't accustomed to struggles on the baseball diamond.
In fact, coach Jack Lewis never had presided over a sub-.500 season with the Raiders before last spring.
"Our first goal going into this season is to get this wins-losses thing going back in the right direction," Lewis said.
And Shenandoah believes it has the pieces to do just that.
The roster took a hit with the graduation of leadoff hitter Tyler Crane, first baseman Austin Hitchens, outfielder Devon Shelton and pitcher Clint Nation. But last season's trial by fire provided seasoning for a host of young returnees.
Chief among them is senior Trevor Conner, who hit .377 with five homers and 33 RBIs despite fighting through a nagging injury for much of the season.
"I'm not sure he was ever really healthy last year in the last half of the season," Lewis said. "But come tournament time, it was hard to keep the kid out of the lineup. He was gonna pencil himself into the lineup."
That kind of leadership will come in handy on a team that returns three other seniors — Kain Harless, Colin Casstevens and Terick Warner — along with a trio of juniors — Jarrett Vardaman, Brayden Crow and Jacob Fish.
"I think we're coming together pretty quick," Lewis said. "I've been real pleased with the attitude in the gym."
Among the biggest reasons for optimism is a pitching staff that returns its top two hurlers and six of its top eight.
Junior Caleb York — 4-2 with a 4.32 ERA in 2013 — leads the charge. He's joined by Warner, Colin Cronk, Fish, Conner, Hunter Farley, Harless and Rock Hensley.
The staff as a whole returns eight victories, 107 strikeouts and 127 1/3 innings pitched.
"We feel like we're right on the verge of potentially being able to do some pretty good things," Lewis said.
Those things include postseason success.
Shenandoah is in a difficult Class 2A sectional that includes Wapahani, Lapel and Frankton. But that won't lower the Raiders' expectations.
If anything, it only makes the program hungrier.
"We feel like we can pull together and get in that final game and take our chances," Lewis said. "Our goal is always a sectional championship."
This is the first in a series of high school baseball previews. Over the next 10 days, each area team will be covered in this manner. Coming tomorrow: Daleville.