Troy baseball returns talented, experienced group to diamond

TROY — Troy baseball coach Ty Welker is excited about what he sees heading into the season, after going with a young team last season.

“We return four juniors on the mound that started for us last season,” Welker said. “We have some other guys that can step in as well. The left side of our infield will be a strength. I think we will be a different team swinging the bat this year. These guys can hit. Outfield was a question mark for us last year and it still will be a little bit of a question mark.”

Back on the mound for Troy will be juniors Brian Allen, Andrew Helman, Connor Hutchinson and Trayce Mercer.

Allen was 5-2 a year ago with a 1.736 ERA. He had 46 strikeouts in 40 innings and also had two saves.

Helman was 3-3 with a 2.697 ERA. He had 42 strikeouts in 36 innings.

Mercer was 6-2 with a 3.426 ERA and had 45 strikeouts in 47 innings.

Hutchinson was 1-1 with three saves. He had a 3.675 ERA.

Also seeing action on the hill will be seniors Braden Cole, Ryan Martz and Daniel Rekow, junior Jacob Lucas, sophomores Evan Kaiser and Caleb Akins and freshman Hayden Frey.

“The juniors are way ahead of where the juniors normally are,” Welker said. “They have pitched against the Vandalias and in tough non-conference games. They have been with coach (Heath) Murray and our staff.”

Junior Owen Harlamert returns at the catching position along with Akins.

Harlamert batted .214 a year ago with one double, two home runs and 12 RBIs.

“The catcher controls the game,” Welker said. “So, that is huge to have him back. And Caleb (Akins) can give him a breather back there (behind the plate) and push him to get better.”

The left side of the infield is set with sophomore Ryder Kirtley and Hutchinson.

Kirtley batted .276 as a freshman with six doubles, three triples and 12 RBIs. He also stole 17 bases.

Hutchinson batted .288 with five doubles, a triple, 12 RBIs and 11 stolen bases.

“Both of them are D-I commits,” Mercer said. “Ryder committed to Virginia Tech and Connor to Ball State. So, that makes us pretty strong on the left side.”

Helman and Akins will both see action at second base, while a host of players will share time at first base.

“We have a bunch of guys who can play first base,” Welker said.

Welker hopes to be better in the outfield.

Junior Nick Kawecki will handle centerfield duties, while junior Eli Donnan and senior Kale Francis will be in left field.

Donnan batted .304 a year ago.

Martz and Kaiser are among those who could see action in right field, while junior Eli Smith will provide pop with his bat as designated hitter.

“Nick Kaweicki is back after missing last season with an injury,” Welker said. “Left field and right field could be whoever is hitting for us. Eli Donnan swung the bat well for us last year.”

Troy will face a tough schedule again as usual.

In the MVL, Welker said Butler is the team to beat.

“It seems like they are always the team we are talking about,” Welker said. “They lost a lot, but that doesn’t matter. Coach (Trent) Dues is always going to have them ready. Tippecanoe has a new coach (Bryan Gronski) and I am sure he will continue the success they had under Bruce Cahill. He had a long run of success.

“There are a lot of strong arms in the league. We saw that with Piqua and Greenville last year and Sidney in the other division.”

The Trojans will again play a strong non-conference schedule.

“I think we have a really tough schedule,” Welker said. “We open with Lakota West Saturday.”

And the Trojans can’t wait to get started — with a year’s more experience.