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April 5, 2013

2013 Muller preview: Indians in successful frame of mind

ANDERSON, Ind. — The return of seven seniors — including perhaps the best hitter and pitcher in the area — should be reason enough for optimism within the Anderson baseball program.

But something that happened near the end of the Indians’ historic 2012 season has coach Terry Turner and his players setting their sights even higher.

Anderson rallied for five runs in the seventh inning to beat Pendleton Heights in a Class 4A sectional semifinal then beat North Central Conference rival New Castle for its first sectional title in 17 years later in the evening.

It was the kind of day that can put a program back on the right track, and the aftermath has been felt throughout the 2013 team’s offseason work.

“Winning the sectional last year changed the mental aspect of it,” Turner said. “These kids have high expectations. I truly believe winning is an attitude.”

The sea change is being led by three key seniors — pitcher Curtis Wilson, catcher Jake Fox and slugger Peyton Newsom. Also returning are Jarred Quartier, Eddie Boner, Zach Sanderson, Ethan Duncan and Chase Short.

Wilson won all three games in the sectional last May, and he’ll team with Quartier at the top of what should be a strong pitching rotation.

“In order to be competitive, especially at tournament time, you have to have a one and a two (starting pitcher),” Turner said. “Jarred is bigger and stronger this year, and Curtis is so much stronger. I look for major improvements in his game, too.”

Newsom spent much of last season as the most feared hitter in the county. It was his RBI single that opened the floodgates in the comeback against the Arabians, and he launched an impressive 10 home runs for the year — seven of which came at spacious Memorial Field.

While Wilson, perhaps the county’s best starting pitcher, already is bound for Danville Community College, Newsom still is weighing his options. Among the schools on the table are Manchester and St. Francis.

“He’s still up for grabs, and whoever gets him is going to get a nice surprise,” Turner said. “He’s improved by leaps and bounds in the last year.”

The Indians hope the same is true for their own game, even coming off a remarkable 22-9 campaign.

If there’s one black mark remaining on the program’s ledger, it centers around the Nick Muller Memorial Baseball Tournament. Anderson won the tournament that honors its former catcher three times in the first seven years, but the Tribe hasn’t added to that tally since 2007. There were four consecutive runner-up finishes from 2008 to 2011 and a third-place finish in 2012.

Turner said he’s changed his focus from tournament management to team preparation in the past few seasons, and winning the Muller title remains among the Indians’ primary goals.

But this spring’s unpredictable weather has kept many teams indoors for much of preseason practice, and despite Anderson’s confidence and experience, nobody really knows what to expect when the games begin.

The Tribe opens play Tuesday against newcomer Anderson Prep at Memorial Field.

“It goes to say every year, you really don’t know what you’ve got until you get out there,” Turner said. “We’ve been fortunate enough to have very good leadership the past couple of years. Hopefully the experienced guys coming back will bring the young guys along with them, and hopefully we’ll execute well enough to win.”

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