Baseball: Veteran Pitching & Consistent Play Keys For Raiders in 2016; Season Starts Sunday in Florida

Baseball: Veteran Pitching & Consistent Play Keys For Raiders in 2016; Season Starts Sunday in Florida

Mount Union's baseball team looks to be more consistent as the Purple Raiders attempt to contend for an Ohio Athletic Conference title in 2016.

The Raiders will look toward a veteran pitching staff to provide leadership. Senior Kyle Toma (Strongsville/Strongsville) went 9-2 a year ago and has a 13-2 record over the last two seasons is at the top of the rotation.

Fellow senior Beau Taylor (Alliance/West Branch) won three games a year ago while senior Scott Chase (Cleveland/St. Ignatius) had a team high six saves a year ago. Junior middle reliever Mitch McCristall (Mansfield/Ontario) and sophomore left handed starter Noah Skladan (Amherst/Steele) are also back.

Two other veteran returners that should bolster the rotation are fifth year seniors Sam Clarke (Strongsville/Strongsville) and Geno Ceriani (Ellwood City, Pa./Lincoln) who were both out with injuries all of last season. In 2014, Clarke had seven wins and Ceriani had 32 strikeouts.

The front of the offense will start behind the plate as all-region catcher James Weber (Auburn, Ind./Garrett) -- the team's top returnining hitter is back. Weber was among conference leaders with a .411 batting average and had a team-high 31 RBI and two home runs to go along with 51 hits and nine doubles. He also threw out 40-percent of runners trying to steal.

Four other starters are back in seniors Mitchell Lake (Orwell/Grand Valley), Scott Sherwood (Mentor/Mentor) and Adam Bialosky (Hinkley/Medina Highland) along with junior Nick Piotrowski (Macedonia/Nordonia). Lake played 34 games at shortstop, hit .316 and was second on the team with 30 runs batted in. Sherwood played in 31 games in center field and a had .362 average with seven doubles, a triple and 22 runs batted in. Bialosky spent 30 games in left field and hit .323 with 16 runs batted in. Piotrowski, who was mostly a designated hitter a year ago, drove in 24 runs with eight doubles hitting .302.

Headlining a talented group of newcomers are pitchers Josh Andexler (Aurora/Aurora) and Nick Satovich (New Kensington, Pa./Plum) along with infielder Niklas Kuriger (Atlo, N.J./Winslow Twp.).

The season begins with the annual spring break trip to Winter Haven, Florida in early March before the home opener Saturday, March 19 against Westminster (Pa.) at 23rd Street Field in Alliance. The OAC opener is against Marietta Friday, March. 25 at 1 p.m. in Alliance.