GRANVILLE — Seven new starters and a new coach may equal a rebuilding season for most teams.
But first-year Putnam County baseball coach Joey Ohnesorge doesn’t think that’s the case for the Panthers.
“There might be a lot of schools and a lot of coaches who are thinking we are going to rebuild this year — and it may look like that on paper — but I think teams are going to be surprised with what we put out there on the field and how competitive we’re going to be.”
The Panthers hope they’re competitive enough to make another deep postseason run after reaching the Class 1A title game under former coach Dave Garcia.
“We’re going to try to do what we did last year, only win that last game,” senior Harold Fay said. “That’s always our goal. A lot of things have to fall into place, but I think it’s definitely a reachable goal.”
To reach the goal, PC will rely heavily on Fay, fellow returning senior Evan Kreiser and a strong junior class.
Fay, who went 9-4 with a 2.33 ERA and won four postseason games, will be the ace of the pitching staff, which Ohnesorge expects to be the strength of the team.
Junior Dan Pavlovich, who Ohnesorge said looked good during the fall season, will be the No. 2, while left-handed junior Austin Biagini, classmate Nick DiazDeLeon and Kreiser also will see time on the mound.
“We have a lot of good pitchers this year,” Kreiser said. “Some of us have experience and some don’t, but pitching will be strong this year.”
Ohnesorge also expects the Panthers to be strong defensively up the middle.
Kreiser and Jeff Baker will see time behind the plate, Fay will play shortstop when he’s not pitching, DiazDeLeon will play both middle infield spots, Matt Magana, Michael Weide and Neal Stassell will share time at second and Biagini and R.J. Copeland will both get playing time in center field and left field.
Baker and Justin Galetti will split time at first base, DiazDeLeon and Pavlovich will play third base and Michael Glenn and Colton Washkowiak will each see time in right field.
“We’re going to hang our hats on defense and let the offense come to us,” Fay said. “Defense wins games. It’ll definitely be our strong point. Hopefully, we’ll build around that.
“Coach is real big on fundamentals, footwork and everything about defense.”
The offense will be a work in progress after the Panthers “didn’t hit real well” during the fall season.
Early in the season, some combination of Biagini, Copeland and Fay will fill the top three spots in the lineup, while DiazDeLeon, Kreiser and Stassell will fall somewhere in the 4-5-6 spots.
“This team is not going to hit for a lot of power,” Ohnesorge said. “We’re going to hit the ball on the ground, get a lot of base hits, and do a lot of running. We have some guys who have some speed. We’ll bunt, hit and run and take the extra base when we have it. We’ll play some small ball. That’s my philosophy with this team.”
With strong pitching and defense - and they hope an offense that comes around - the Panthers are looking not only to make another deep postseason run but also compete for a Tri-County Conference title.
“Our goal, like usual, is to win the conference,” said Kreiser, who expects tough competition from Marquette. “That’s expected out of us since we have a good program.”
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.