Mount Union's baseball team hopes that a veteran roster will lead to more consistency as the Purple Raiders attempt to contend for an Ohio Athletic Conference title in 2017.
The Raiders look toward a veteran core of six returning position players and three returning starting pitchers to lead a squad that came within a game of the season ending conference tournament each of the last two seasons.
All-conference outfielder Billy Goodall (Canfield/South Range) will move from left over to center and is expected to anchor a lineup that hit .324 as a team and stole 64 bases. Goodall, a junior, hit .376 drove in 34 runs and was 19-of-20 in stolen bases.
Two other regulars from a year ago return that hit over .300 on the season in senior shortstop Jimmy Scott (Holland/Toldeo St. John's) and sophomore first baseman Nick Satovich (New Kensington, Pa./Plum). Scott hit .341 and drove in 28 while Satovich hit .301 with 18 RBI.
Senior Nick Piotrowski (Macedonia/Nordonia) returns at second base and hit .284 with 18 RBI while a pair of guys that platooned for part of the year in senior third baseman Conner Koski (Mayfield Hts./Mayfield) and outfielder Angelo Cruz (Lorain/Elyria Catholic) are also back.
The pitching staff hopes there is strength in numbers as three starters all return led by sophomore Phil Mary (Venetia, Pa./Peters Township). Mary won four games and was second on the team in strikeouts with 38.
The other two starters back are senior Beau Taylor (Alliance/West Branch) and junior lefty Noah Skladan (Amherst/Steele). Three relivers -- juniors Mitch McCristall (Mansfield/Ontario), Darren Krolikowski (Independence/Independence) and Mike Martin (Independence/Independence) combined for nearly 60 innings of work last year and add depth and experience to the staff.
There is also experience in the Mount Union dugout as Paul Hesse enters his 21st season as head coach and is one win away from being the eighth coach in conference history with at least 400 wins.
The season begins with the annual spring break trip to Winter Haven, Florida in early March with a twist due to finals schedule at Mount Union, the Raiders will "host" Baldwin Wallace in a conference series in the Sunshine State. The home opener is Tuesday, March 21 against Pitt-Greensburg at 23rd Street Field in Alliance.