By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
MIDDLETOWN, Ind. —
Shenandoah lost six seniors after last year’s 13-13 baseball campaign, including ace pitcher John Fritz and offensive leader Johnny Slivka.
But the Raiders’ mood as they prepare to open the 2013 season next week is anything but downbeat.
“Surprisingly enough, things are coming together pretty smoothly,” coach Jack Lewis said. “It’s amazing, from year-to-year, how kids change.”
Chief among the changes is senior pitcher Clint Nation. A multi-sport athlete, Nation threw just 11 1/3 innings on the mound last season. But he’s really blossomed this spring.
“He has just kinda come out of nowhere,” Lewis said. “We’re kind of leaning on him real hard. We’ll see how far we can ride Clint this year.”
Nation honed his skills last season as Shenandoah’s No. 3 hurler, pitching against some of the larger schools on the schedule such as Mount Vernon. He’s joined on this year’s staff by senior Austin Hitchens, a four-year varsity competitor who also will be the Raiders’ starting shortstop.
Among the other names to keep an eye on is Kain Harless. Lewis — who is in his third season of his second stint at Shenandoah — believes the junior catcher has a future at the collegiate level. He’s a highly intelligent backstop who has taken on a strong leadership role behind the plate.
“It’s such an advantage to have a catcher back there who just shuts the (opposing) running game down,” Lewis said. “He’s such a good athlete. He’s probably the best athlete on our team.”
Like nearly everyone else in the area, the Raiders have been confined to the gym for much of their offseason workouts. Lewis hopes Shenandoah can get some work in outside soon because it has tough games coming up Wednesday against Rushville and next Saturday against Eastern Hancock.
“We’re a little bit behind on seeing the ball outside, which is different than seeing it in the gym,” he said. “We’ve gotta start seeing some pitches outside real soon.”
Once the Raiders finally hit the diamond, Lewis is expecting the past three years of program building will begin to bear fruit.
“I’m proud of the guys who have been with us now for three years,” he said. “I’m hoping, even though we lost some kids (from last season), what we’ve been teaching the past three years starts to pay off a little bit.”