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April 1, 2013

2013 Muller preview: Lions embracing fresh start

ANDERSON, Ind. — The Liberty Christian baseball program is starting over. Again.

Mark Miller is the Lions’ fifth head coach in the past six years, and each has come in with promises of a culture change.

But something feels different this time around. For one thing, it’s not just a face in the front of the dugout that’s changing.

Liberty Christian hopes to open a new on-campus diamond by April 16, and a new middle school program begins play this year to help build the program’s roots.

That’s just the start of what Miller hopes will become a new era to match the school’s recent boys basketball makeover.

“I think I bring a different style of baseball,” Miller said. “I know Liberty has been known for basketball, and we’re ready to put baseball on the map.”

Miller has 13 years of experience as a Little League and traveling all-star team coach, but this is his first varsity assignment. He is, however, familiar with the Lions’ roster.

He volunteered in a number of roles last season, including keeping the team’s official scorebook, and his sons attend the school.

Miller takes over a lineup led by senior pitcher Remington Emery and including returning starters at first base (Carl Winters), third base (Levi Holland), catcher (Justin Krieg), second base (Dalton Miller) and shortstop (Preston Quinn).

Josh Kardatzke and Michael Huang also return, and sophomore Robert Beisley will join the mix.

“We’ve got a good core,” Miller said. “These kids have arguably the best work ethic I’ve ever seen. We look really good in the gym, and we’re ready to look good in the field.”

The Lions open play Tuesday at Indiana Deaf School and play a doubleheader Saturday at Muncie South before jumping into the Nick Muller Memorial Baseball Tournament.

With nine teams in this year’s field, the format has been slightly altered. As a result, Liberty Christian doesn’t yet know its first-round opponent. The Lions will play the winner of the April 8 game between Frankton and Elwood to open the tournament at Pendleton Heights on April 9.

A tournament this early in the season has its drawbacks, especially when it comes to setting a pitching rotation, but Miller is happy for the opportunity to test his team against quality competition.

“At this point, we’re just ready to play ball,” he said. “Honestly, we’d take anybody (as an opponent). I think we’re ready to turn some heads.”

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