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March 30, 2013

2013 Muller preview: Argylls hope to meet rising expectations

FAIRMOUNT, Ind. — Bengie Rodriguez’s first season as Madison-Grant’s baseball coach ended with a surprise Class 2A sectional championship.

Now all eyes will be watching to see what he does for an encore.

The Argylls open the 2013 season Tuesday against Wes-Del and will host Allendale (Mich.) on Friday before beginning play in the Nick Muller Memorial Baseball Tournament next week.

Just four starters return from last year’s championship run, but the impact of bringing home the sectional hardware still is being felt in the program.

“Some kids already are talking about going back to regional,” Rodriguez said. “Once you taste it once, you want to get back there again.”

The Argylls’ version of the core four — Tyler McClellan, Andrew Schwinn, Jacob Bair and Austin Purkey — gives Rodriguez a nice start. They’ll be joined by a versatile group of youngsters, many of whom will be moving up from the junior varsity.

Among them: Dakota Brooks, Caleb Wybrew, Connor Michener, Alex Garringer, Justin Sollars, Cameron Myers, Luke Brown, Kyle Tobias and freshman Seth Nash.

Like many teams in the area, Madison-Grant has not been able to practice outside the confines of its gym this spring. So Rodriguez is looking forward to Tuesday’s season debut.

“To be honest, I don’t know how we’re gonna look,” he said. “We haven’t seen the field yet.”

The Argylls finished third in their inaugural Muller appearance in 2011, but lost to Pendleton Heights in the opening round a year ago. Madison-Grant opens this year’s tournament on the road against the Arabians again.

“Everything we do is for the future,” Rodriguez said. “This is a good tournament. It’s good competition for us, too. We can see what we’re made of.”

The Argylls lost a productive senior class in David Anderson, Brady Franklin, Ryan Inglis, Heath Davidson and Kyle Massey. The team finished 15-13 overall in 2012, improving as the season wore on and peaking with a 7-5 victory against Tipton in the sectional title game at Eastern.

Even with all the turnover on the roster, there’s a greater sense of continuity this time around. Rodriguez has had a full offseason with his team, and they in turn have a better feel for him.

The Muller tourney comes extremely early in the year, but Rodriguez sees it as another chance for his team to take a step forward.

“We’re gonna go out and try to win it,” he said. “But, if not, we’re just gonna work on what we can get better at.”

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