Like any other Ohio high school baseball program the Galion Tigers set lofty preseason goals.
With five returning starters, only four seniors, from a team that finished 6-8 in the conference and 9-16 overall, Galion looks to be “young for another year,” said head coach Phil Jackson .
That won’t deter Galion’s third-year head coach from expecting the most from his program.
“We want to win the League (Mid Ohio Athletic Conference, Red Division) and a Sectional championship, and compete for a District title,” he said.
Jackson feels the MOAC is a “very good baseball league.”
“Jonathan Alder is always a favorite, Buckeye Valley and Marion Pleasant look to be good as well,” he said. “We should be in the top few teams in our league.”
Returning seniors Josh Eckert and Tyler Castline will start for a Tiger’s team, which lost four starters to graduation. Eckert was a second team all-conference selection last season while Castline was honorable mention.
Eckert will play either shortstop or second base.
“I change my mind every day,” Jackson said. “Castline is roaming centerfield. He’s got wheels; he does good things for us.”
Eckert and Castline are joined in the starting lineup by fellow senior Matt Hardy and juniors Devin Baughn, Garrett Kuns, Ryan Talbot and Will Donahue.
Jackson feels that depth on the mound is the team’s strength.
“Senor Matt Hardy and juniors Garrett Kuns, Will Donahue and Mac Spears will see most of the varsity action,” Jackson said.
Tiger starters allowed only four hits in their first two scrimmages.
“When our ones and twos are in there, they keep people off base,” Jackson said.
Defensively the Tigers have some issues on the left side of the infield but Jackson feels those can be “ironed out.”
On offense the 2016 Tigers will rely on contact hitting and base running to contend.
“We sacrifice runners around the bases and we get timely hits-that’s how we win ball games,” Jackson said. “We’re not a big power hitting team but we’re doing well hitting balls in the gaps, we’ve picked up quite a few doubles early in the season.”
Galion scored 47 runs in its four scrimmages.
“I’ve been happy where we’re at offensively; we’ve put up a lot of runs early in the scrimmage season. We’re doing well getting on base and putting the ball in play. We’ll sacrifice when we need to but we like to play for a big inning,” Jackson said.
According to Jackson, “some of our better hitters are Kuns, Spears and Ryan Talbott. Their stats didn’t show it last year when they were young sophomores, but they got key hits for us when we needed them.”
Sophomores Aaron Barnhart and Ethan Piggy look to platoon behind the plate for the Tigers this season. Both players are developing as backstops and will factor heavily in controlling the opposition’s running game.
The MOAC Red Division is traditionally competitive and Galion’s ability to contend will rest on the following circumstances:
1. Can the team avoid injuries to its core group of players? The Tigers are young and have talent, but it is unproven in game situations.
2. Will the Tigers see immediate results from the catcher position? Both catchers have potential, but must develop quickly in order to take pressure off the pitching staff with runners on base.
3. Will the team’s starters go deep into games? Pitchers must be efficient in order to stay in games, lack of control means high pitch counts and early exits.
Galion opens regular season play March 28 at Clear Fork.
Mike Tanchevski is a contributing columnist. Connect with him on Twitter at @mtan62 or email GALsports@civitasmedia.com.