LOGO MULLER TOURNAMENT

ALEXANDRIA — The Alexandria baseball team isn't putting any ceiling on its 2015 season.

"We haven't reached our potential yet, in my opinion," Tigers coach Jeff Closser said. "We got the seniors together and said, 'You can go as far as you want to go.' We feel we have the mindset and the ability to maybe take the next step and get to Victory Field."

That would mean playing for the program's first state championship since 1998 and slipping past Class 2A No. 1 and defending state champion Wapahani somewhere along the way.

Lofty aspirations, indeed. But goals Alexandria is not afraid of giving voice to.

In many ways, the program has been building to this point for the past few years. The Tigers won the Nick Muller Memorial Baseball Tournament in 2012 and followed a year later with Central Indiana Conference and sectional championships.

Last year's team finished 20-11, and there's a sense these seniors' best is yet to come.

"We thought last year would be another stepping stone," Closser said. "But we dealt with some injuries, and some things just didn't fall our way. We won 20 games and had a good season, but we didn't win a championship. And we want to win championships."

The biggest of last year's injuries was shoulder inflammation that limited ace Blaize Kelly to three starts and 20 1/3 innings pitched. Then-sophomore Braxton Moore stepped into the void, posting a 6-2 record with a 2.85 ERA and proving his own credentials as a No. 1 option.

With both pitchers healthy this spring, Alexandria could have one of the best righty (Kelly)/lefty (Moore) combinations in the state.

"We're pretty excited about our pitching staff," Closser said.

That confidence extends to the everyday lineup, where the Tigers return seven regulars.

It all starts with lead-off man Jessie Gossett who hit .461 with a homer, 16 RBIs, six doubles, three triples and seven stolen bases a year ago. Ohio State-bound first baseman Owen Young hit .437 with a homer, a team-high 30 RBIs, nine doubles, two triples and 20 steals. And Anderson University-bound catcher Braden Warren hit .329 with a homer, 20 RBIs and a team-high 11 doubles.

Jonah Jerrills led the team with two homers and 22 stolen bases, adding a .421 average and 18 RBIs. Kelly hit .364 with 22 RBIs and 13 steals, Chet Maynard hit .303 and Moore batted .293.

"We feel like we're in pretty good shape," Closser said. "This is probably the best depth we've had since I've been here."

Alexandria's chase for championships begins next week in the 15th annual Muller tourney. A 6-3 loss against eventual champion Pendleton Heights knocked the Tigers out of the winner's bracket last year on Day 2.

Alexandria rebounded with wins over Liberty Christian and Madison-Grant to claim fifth place. The Tigers open with a bye this year and will face either Elwood or Anderson Prep on Wednesday at Memorial Field.

The county tournament represents Alexandria's first chance to add to its hardware collection this spring.

"It's the championship we've got our eye on first," Closser said. "But the county is always a tough road. You've gotta beat two or three good teams to win the championship."

As for the other potential titles on the Tigers' horizon? The eighth-ranked team in Class 2A understands nothing will come easily.

"You can think you're going to be competitive all you want," Closser said. "But you've gotta go out on the field and perform."

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