Ottawa lost a lot of good baseball players to graduation, but have several key returners and others ready to step in and make their mark.
Ottawa coach Shawn Herrmann likes how the 2014 team is rounding into shape. Ottawa is ranked third in 4A-Division II in the Kansas Baseball Coaches Association preseason poll.
“I am happy with our experience,” Herrmann said. “I am happy with our depth and attitudes. A lot of guys were excited to play before the season started.”
Ottawa has seven players with varsity experience. Herrmann will move those players around to maximize their talent for the team.
“We have had good practices,” Herrmann said. “We have been on the field more than we’ve ever been on the field. We scrimmaged once.
“Things are coming together. I am pleased with where we are at right now. The more we see live pitching, it will help us. In our scrimmage, hitting was our downfall. We had a lot of kids that played basketball or wrestled.”
The returners are led by senior Nathan Roth. He will be the ace of the pitching staff. He will play several other positions including first base, third base and the outfield.
The lefty has signed to pitch for Pratt Community College.
Junior outfielder Tate Jung is coming off an all-state season.
“Tate had a great year last year,” Herrmann said.
Other returners include Dayne Jung, Connor Stepp, Alex Stepp, Sam Carver and Hayden Yancey.
“It is a lot of guys that can play multiple positions,” Herrmann said. “They know the expectations.”
Herrmann was quick to point out Ottawa will rely on the parts and not just a few players. He expects to use six or seven pitchers, may be all in the same game.
“We have to rise to the occasion,” Herrmann said. “We always talked about being the aggressors. You have to be the aggressors for seven innings. They know how to win. They have to follow the whole way through. Pitchers have to throw strikes. We have to play good defense behind them.
“We are not going to score 20 runs. We are not going to hit 20 home runs. We will have to have timely hitting. This is what I like. Cut our strikeouts down and put the ball in play. Put pressure on other people and that will help us a lot.
“We will mix up our pitching every game. We will keep rotating guys in and out.”
Ottawa plays a tough schedule as usual. Five opponents are ranked in the preseason poll.
“We have a very tough schedule,” Herrmann said. “The preseason rankings came out and four were in the Frontier League. We will be tested every game we go out. Just compete is all I ask.”
De Soto was ranked No. 2 in 4A. Paola and Spring Hill were No. 5 and 6. Mill Valley was third in 5A and St. James is No. 7.
Ottawa opens the season April 3 at Spring Hill.