Although there still may be snow on the ground, spring is here and the 2014 high school baseball season begins in just days.
Ashtabula County’s top two teams from a year ago — Jefferson and Edgewood — return large senior classes that are loaded with talent and look poised to make a run at a Division II district title.
Teams such as Grand Valley, Pymatuning Valley, Conneaut and Madison are looking to replace talent, but have plenty of younger players who can make an impact at the varsity level.
Conneaut, Geneva and Lakeside welcome new coaches this season — Rich Shields (Conneaut), Jared Sziber (Geneva) and John Anservitz (Lakeside) — who are getting their first shots at coaching varsity baseball.
Needless to say, the upcoming season looks to be filled with plenty of talented players and teams that will contend for conference titles and tournament success.
Following is a breakdown of each team in the Star Beacon’s coverage area and how their respective coaches feel about the upcoming season.
Rich Shields takes over the Spartans program, which will look to fill the void left by 2013 Star Beacon Ashtabula County Player of the Year Joey Borgerding.
Borgerding did it all for Conneaut in 2013 as the team’s top pitcher and best hitter, but Shields has plenty of talent returning to help replace that loss.
A deep senior class that includes Chandler Stitt (2B-P), Sam Distelrath (3B-RF), Dylan Morici (CF-P), C.J. Rice (LF-P), Mikey Teed (2B-P) and Ryan Otaman (1B-P).
Shields like what he has in his first year in charge.
“We have a great group of young men that I believe will have a lot of success this season,” he said. “The keys to making this happen are strong pitching and improvement on offense.
“I expect our pitchers to hold down the opposition’s offense and after we get a few games in this season I expect our offense to come alive.”
Also returning as a letterman is junior Troy Colucci (IF-OF-P).
With Shields focus on pitching, he has no shortage of potential arms with eight players on the roster listed as pitchers.
With that in mind, Shields believes defense will be the backbone of his team.
“I believe that our defense — especially the strength in the arms of our outfielders — will carry us this season,” he said. “We have a solid middle infield and I expect double plays to be common practice.”
Conneaut remains independent this season, making it the only team the Star Beacon coverage area without a conference.