Troy baseball returns talented, veteran group to diamond


TROY — The Troy baseball team has experience that few teams have.

The Trojans have 16 seniors on the roster, a deep pitching staff and seven of the eight position starters returning from a year ago, when Troy went 23-5 and shared the MVL title with Vandalia-Butler.

And Troy coach Ty Welker knows that beats the alternative.

“All our guys play for different teams in the summer, so it is nice to get out there and get the continuity of playing with each other back,” Welker said. “And these guys enjoy playing with each other. I think I will notice it more next year, when we don’t have that experience.”

And Welker knows the expectations are again high for the Trojans.

“These guys know there is a target on their back,” Welker said. “That they are going to get everybody’s best every night. They look forward to the challenge. Expectations are always high here.”

And Welker had a conversation with the team before the season.

“It is not a question of playing hard, these guys playing hard every night,” he said. “We talked about leadership and what leadership is and why we lost some of the games we lost last year. We only had five losses, we had a good year. We won a lot of close games. We want to put games away early this year and be able to work on things.”

The pitching staff is headed up by three, 3-year starters.

Senior Andrew Helman was 4-0 last year, striking out 49 batters in 34 innings and having a .618 ERA.

Senior Brian Allen was 5-1 in eighth games with 38 strikeouts in 32 inning and a 3.031 ERA and senior Trayce Mercer was 4-2 with 60 strikeouts in 47 innings and a 2.056 ERA.

“Those guys have a lot of experience,” Mercer said. “They have all been starting for three years.”

Rounding out the rotation will be senior Connor Hutchinson (Ball State) and sophomore Hayden Frey, who was 2-0 with a 1.00 ERA last year.

“Connor (Hutchinson) only pitched four innings last year,” Mercer said. “He is healthy now. Hayden (Frey) is lefthander who threw well last year.”

Senior Jacob Lucas was 4-0 last year with a .966 ERA.

“Jacob (Lucas) saw more action than anyone,” Welker said. “He appeared in 13 games. He was a quiet anchor for us.”

Also seeing action on the mound will be junior Caleb Akins, junior Evan Kaiser, senior JD Harvey, senior Eli Smith senior Nick May, senior Thomas Mascarella, senior Adam Huber and senior Damian Hanf.

Senior Owen Harlamert will handle the catching duties. Also seeing action there will be junior Ethan Nosker and Akins.

Harlamert hit .254 a year ago, with two homers, two doubles, a triple and 11 RBIs.

The infield returns intact as well.

Hutchinson will play third base and shortstop, three-year starter Ryder Kirtley (Virginia Tech commit) will be at shortstop, Akins will be at second base and Frey will be at first base.

Kirtley battled .396 a year ago with 10 doubles, a triple, 20 RBIs and 12 stolen bases.

Hutchinson batted .271 with a home run, three doubles, 10 RBIs and 11 stolen bases, Akins had a double, triple and 12 RBIs, and Frey batted .322 with a double, 15 RBIs and 11 stolen bases.

Smith, Huber and sophomore Matthew Hempker will also see action in the infield.

“We have two juniors and sophomore starting, so we are still pretty young there,” Welker said. “Eli Smith had Tommy John surgery a year and a half ago, so he will play some infield.”

Senior Eli Donnan returns in left field.

A year ago, he hit .329 with two doubles, 11 RBIs and 10 stolen bases.

“Eli (Donnan) is athletic and swings a strong bat,” Welker said.

In right field, Mercer is back — along with seniors Tristan Harting, Zane Huelsman, Connor Moeller and Mascarello.

Nick Kawecki will not be back in centerfield, due to an injury.

Taking over will be Kaiser and Lucas.

“Nick (Kawecki) is rehabbing an injury so he won’t be able to play,” Mercer said. “Centerfield is probably our biggest question mark. But, Evan Kaiser and Jacob Lucas are two pretty good athletes.”

The MVL is not a lot different from a year ago.

“Or biggest challenge is probably going to be Vandalia-Butler,” Welker said. “But, Tippecanoe is always going to bring it and Piqua is coming off a good year and has a strong senior group. Every team has a couple good arms, we are not overlooking anybody.

“In the other division, Sidney and West Carrollton have a couple good arms. You can’t overlook anyone.”

The Trojans are looking to make a run this season in the postseason.

“We had a good year last year,” Welker said. “But, things didn’t go our way in the tournament. We want to change that.”

And he couldn’t have a better group to do it with.

Sports Editor Rob Kiser can be reached at [email protected]

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