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April 1, 2013

2013 Muller preview: Jets prepare for higher altitude

ANDERSON, Ind. — Playing as a junior varsity program, the Anderson Preparatory Academy baseball team posted a more-than-respectable 10-5 record last season.

Now the Jets will see if they can survive a climb to higher altitude.

The varsity era at APA officially begins April 9 with a first-round game in the Nick Muller Memorial Baseball Tournament against defending Class 4A sectional champion Anderson.

“It’s our first game, and it’s their first game,” Jets coach Alex Bare said, noting his team — and likely the Indians, as well — has yet to get outside of its gymnasium for practice. “We’ll probably both kinda come out rusty. I’m not saying we’ll tuck our heads in the sand. We’re going to give it our best effort and see what happens.”

Anderson Prep will become the 11th school to compete in the Muller tourney and push the field to nine teams for the first time this year. Taylor — which finished as runner-up in 2003 and 2004 — was replaced by Liberty Christian in 2006, and three-time champion Highland closed after beating rival Anderson for the title in 2010.

Five different schools have won the championship in the tournament’s first 12 years, and no team ever has won it all in consecutive seasons.

The Jets understand they’re joining a highly competitive field. But Bare also realizes surprises likely lie ahead.

“Obviously it’s our first year in the tournament, and we’re not really sure what to expect out of that,” he said. “We expect to compete for sure. It might be an eye-opener for us.”

Bare said he doesn’t think school size is a major factor in baseball, adding that it really just comes down to the nine players on each side of the diamond. That opinion is supported by Class 2A Alexandria’s status as the defending tourney champ.

That’s probably a bit too lofty a goal for the Jets in their debut season, but there’s no doubt this is a team that hopes to make a name for itself.

APA has a strong core returning in pitcher Jacob Smith, shortstop Noah Long, outfielder Max Sechler and catcher Austin Norris. With just one senior and two juniors on the roster, the Jets also are a team likely to grow throughout the season.

“We’ve got a lot of talent,” Bare said. “It’s our first varsity year, and I’m sure the players have goals for themselves, but as a coach I’d at least like to see us reach .500, which I think is totally doable.”

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