Yellow Jacket baseball has been off to a great start so far this season, boasting a 14-4 record that includes a 5-1 stint in the Clearwater Invitational in early March. Head coach Mike Manes said the successful trip to Clearwater, Fla., encourages him to believe that his team has the capability of having a great season.
Manes said that the four seniors, Paul Hembekides, Alex Beelen, Nate Davenport and Dan Petke, have stepped up in their play and will be crucial this season.
“Our second base-shortstop combination of Alex Beelen at short and Paul Hembekides at second, defensively, is as good as they get,” he said. “They make every play.”
Manes also said that Petke, with his experience and maturity behind home plate, has already had a calming effect on the young pitching staff, which consists of four freshmen, three sophomores, four juniors and one senior.
Likewise, Manes said Davenport has been a great example, especially at bat. Davenport holds the school single season records for total bases (132), runs batted in (61), home runs (12), doubles (25) and at bats (200). Last season Davenport was named both the NCCAA Midwest Region Player of the Year and American Mideast Conference Player of the Year.
Manes said the leadership these seniors has shown has also inspired others to step up and perform.
“The other guys that have filled in roles on the team have done a great job, so the freshmen have stepped up, and they’re playing exceptionally well,” he said. “I just think overall that our depth and our experience is going to be really good for us.”
This depth is seen not only on defense, but also on offense.
“Offensively, top to bottom, we just hit,” Manes said. “All the guys swing the bats really well, and we just hit the ball pretty good.”
And Manes said that pitchers David Ledbetter, Ryan Ledbetter and Michael Roe will also make strong contributions to carry the team into the playoffs. Along with the Ledbetters and Roe, Manes said that freshman Jordan Ammon has also stepped up and will likely to be one of the pitchers the team will rely on quite a bit as the season goes on.
The depth of experience rests not only with the players but also in the coaching staff. Manes said he is excited about the contributions pitching coach Ben Galbreath and outfield coach Tyler Rost have to bring to the team this season. Galbreath pitched four years at Kent State, where he holds many records. And Rost was a Yellow Jacket for four years, where he too made memorable contributions. Rost signed a professional contract earlier this year and will be leaving Cedarville at the end of April to play in an independent league in Texas.