Chris Holly’s Golden Eagles are rebuilding their depth as they gear up for a 23-game 2014 schedule which opens on Saturday with Aurora and Lexington at Ohio Wesleyan University’s Littick Field.
Big Walnut, which posted a 17-12 record and finished fourth in the Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division with an 8-6 record, returns six letter winners as Holly enters his fourth season as the Golden Eagles head coach. Going into the season Holly has compiled a three-year 59-28, .678, including a 24-6 record in 2012. At Big Walnut, Holly is averaging 19.6 victories per season.
Back for the Golden Eagles are senior pitcher/catcher Kyle Duncan, senior outfielder Jeremy Bok, junior shortstop-catcher Brayden Shepherd, junior shortstop-second baseman Matt Tarney, junior first baseman Garrett Grover and sophomore centerfielder Nick Moser. Duncan and Bok are back as two-year lettermen. Shepherd, Tarney, Grover and Moser all earned their first letter last season.
Moser, First Team; Duncan and Tarney, Second Team; and, Bok Honorable, Mention, return as DII All-Central District selections. Moser and Bok were named Second Team All-OCC choices while Tarney was an Honorable Mention pick. Duncan and Moser were All-Metro selections. At the postseason awards banquet, rightfielder Tarney was honored as the Most Valuable Player, Bok was tapped Offensive Player of the Year. Moser was recognized as the Defensive Player of The Year for his play in center field while Dattilo and Woerner shared the Rudy Owen Memorial Award.
“We will have good leadership from our seniors, we have good team speed coming back,” Holly said. “Overall, I expect us to be very competitive between the foul line.”
On the graduation side, the Golden Eagles lost Jay Holland, Max McLean, Cole Harbin, Alex Clark, Brendon Mayer, Joey Woerner and Drew Dattilo. Holland was the recipient of the coveted Golden Eagle Award for academic and athletic achievements while Dattilo and Woerner shared the Rudy Owen Memorial Award.
“We lost some good pitching in Harbin and Clark, a lot of depth in the outfield as well as at the infield corners,” Holly said, adding “WE also lost a lot of leadership with the senior class, a tremendous group of young men who will be greatly missed by our coaching staff.”
What are Holly’s keys to the Golden Eagles’ success in 2014?
“We’re young and our pitching hasn’t really been tested,” he said. “First, we will need to be mentally tough and second, our pitching will have to step up … we will have to become mature in a baseball sense.”
Newcomers to the Golden Eagle roster are senior infielder Ryan Grieser, junior outfielder Michael Blackburn, junior outfielder Brandon Daniels, sophomore third baseman Jakob Evans, and sophomore pitcher/first baseman Tommy Fleser.
Looking at the OCC Capital, Holly said the Capital Division will be as competitive as usual.
“From the first pitch of the season to the last, the OCC Capital will be a 14-game battle,” he said. “We will have to be ready to play every time we step on the diamond.”
Olentangy Orange is the defending champion, winning the Capital Division with a 12-2 mark last spring, Olentangy placed third with a 10-4 mark with Big Walnut taking fourth with its 7-7 record. New to the division is Worthington Kilbourne who replaced Watkins Memorial.
Holly will be assisted in dugout by Carl Weiss, Mick Holly and Joe Lewis.