Cedarville baseball won’t be looking ahead or behind as it hopes to compete for G-MAC title
by Josh Burris
Every pitch. Every inning. Every game. That is Cedarville baseball’s theme for this season.
Head coach Mike Manes said his team will be focusing on the opponent of the day and are not marking anybody on their calendars.
“We aren’t gonna look ahead, we aren’t gonna look behind,” Manes said. “Whoever is on the field that day, that’s our opponent.”
With new talent and coaches, the Yellow Jackets have one goal in mind: winning the G-MAC conference. Despite being ranked fifth in the preseason poll, Manes said their expectation every year is the same.
“We are always expecting to win the conference,” Manes said. “That is always at the forefront. The guys talk about it all the time. That’s what we are preparing for. I think we have the talent to win the conference. If we come all together like a team should, we will win it.”
Last season’s top hitters Drew Johnson and Davis Lenhardt are no longer on the team as Johnson transferred and Lenhardt graduated. Johnson lead the team last year in every major offensive category, including batting average, hits and home runs. Lenhardt was right behind him in all those categories.
Despite these two holes in the lineup, Manes said there will be plenty of pop in the team’s bats. He said he expects big things from returning veterans and one new addition.
“I think Ross Melchior is gonna have a big year,” Manes said. “We got Markus Neff, he is a transfer from a junior college. He’s a big bat, he swings it well. Jaden Cleland is gonna have a big year at the plate. Colton Potter is gonna have a big year at the plate. There is plenty of firepower to go around.”
Melchior hit .264 last year as a freshman with 11 runs batted in. Cleland hit .241 with two home runs and 15 runs batted in. Potter has the team’s highest returning batting average (.344) and number of runs batted in (31).
Neff is a junior first baseman who transferred from Edison State Community College. Last season he hit .348 with nine home runs and 46 runs batted in.
Cedarville tied for third in the conference last year with a team batting average of .304 and averaged almost six runs a game. Pitching has been more of a struggle for the team.
Manes said pitching is always a question. Last season, the team’s earned run average was 6.38 and the team allowed more runs than they scored. The Jackets hope that can change with recently hired pitching coach Bo Martino.
Martino has had experience at multiple schools in Texas, including Division I Stephen F. Austin State in 2014 and 2015. Last season, he was at LeTourneau University. His pitching staff struck out 219 batters in 296 innings and had a team earn run average just below 6.00.
Manes said Martino has been great in the short amount of time he has been with the team.
“He’s been working with the guys a lot,” Manes said. “A lot of changes going on in the pitching staff. I like what I see.”
Sophomore pitcher Riley Landrum said he has seen improvements in the pitching staff as well.
“Coach Bo is awesome,” Landrum said. “He knows his stuff. Already in the little time he has been here guys have already both mechanically and velocity-wise picked it up.”
Landrum said Martino really works with the pitching staff and does not just sit back and watch.
“He is really hands on,” Landrum said. “So he is not going to be somebody who tells you to do something and just sit back. He will tell you and walk you through it.”
The team’s top returning pitchers this season are Andrew Plunkett and Josh Kneeland. As a freshman, Plunkett posted a record of 3-1 in 30 innings pitched with an earned run average 6.00. Kneeland went 4-4 and struck out 50 batters in 50 innings pitched with a 6.48 earned run average.
Nate Robinson would also be mentioned in this list, but he will be a medical redshirt due to an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. Robinson went 3-6 last season in 56.2 innings pitched with 44 strikeouts and an earned run average of 6.51.
Along with Neff, Manes said there will be some other new players that will be making an impact. There are eight freshmen on the roster. Like last year, Manes expects some of them to play big innings.
“We’ve had a few guys that have come in that I think are gonna step up and get some innings on the field,” Manes said.
One freshman he said he expects to get big playing time is Eli Sanchez.
“He’s gonna get some time behind the plate as a catcher and as a third baseman,” Manes said.
Sanchez came from Rockford Christian Life High School in Rockford, Illinois. He was a three-year starter and had a career batting average of .469.
Start of the Season
The Jackets’ season has just gotten under way. They opened with games against Findlay on Feb. 24 and Feb. 25 in Florence, Kentucky. The team will also play four games at Jack Russell Memorial Stadium in Clearwater, Florida, over spring break.
The Jackets’ first home game will be Tuesday, March 21, against Wisconsin Parkside in a doubleheader. Manes said the team loves a great crowd and that games are better with more fans.
Josh Burris is a senior journalism major and the sports editor for Cedars. He is interested in sports broadcasting and reporting. He enjoys watching sports, lifting, and listening to rock and rap music.