By David Fong
TROY — By his own admission, Ty Welker doesn’t have a roster loaded with future Division I college stars or Major League Baseball prospects.
He also wouldn’t trade it for any other team in the area.
“We are a blue collar kind of team,” the Troy baseball coach said. “When we win games, it’s going to be because we have a better team, not because we have better individuals. Would we love to have the horses that some of the other teams have? Sure. But we’ve also won some games that, if you look at talent alone, we probably had no business being in. We’ve got some great kids who work hard and are going to give it their best effort every game.”
The Trojans also return nearly their entire pitching staff and do return their entire infield from last season.
Troy only lost one starter from its pitching staff last season, although it was All-Greater Western Ohio Conference selection Hayden Kotwica. However, the Trojans do return plenty of talent, experience and depth.
Senior Derek McDonagh went 3-1 with a 1.65 earned run average and 47 strikeouts last season. Junior Cole Brogan went 4-3 with a 2.22 ERA. Senior Chase Weaver was 2-0 with a 2.12 ERA who will play at the University of Northwestern Ohio next year.
“Those three guys threw a lot of innings for us last year,” Welker said. “All three of them pitched in some big games. Those are probably our top three guys right now, but we’ve also got three more guys who are right on their heels.”
Welker said juniors Ethan West, Matt Bigley and Braeden Snider all will see time on the mound this season as well. Bigley went 1-1 with a 3.06 ERA last season. Snider is the only left-handed pitcher on the Trojans’ roster. Senior Tomo Nakayama is out for the team for the first time and could see plenty of time in a reliever role.
Behind the plate will be senior Keiran Williams. Backing him up at catcher will be senior Austin Kloeker.
“Keiran is the anchor of our defense,” Welker said. “He’s a vocal leader who has worked hard in the offseason.”
Every piece of the Trojans’ starting infield returns from last season.
At first base will be senior Jake Daniel, who led the Trojans in hitting last season, batting .356 with 20 RBI and nine doubles. He’s committed to play at Ohio Dominican next season. Senior Logan Hubbard will back him up at first. Brandon Emery — Troy’s second-leading returning hitter (.278) will start at second base when Brogan or Bigley aren’t on the mound, but also could shift to shortstop or third base, depending on who is pitching. He’ll play at the University of Findlay next year. Backing up Emery will be junior Austin Kendall.
Brogan and Bigley will play shortstop and third base, respectively, when they aren’t on the mound.
“Jake Daniel will be our three-hole hitter,” Welker said. “He’s a good first baseman and a great hitter. He’s also a leader. Brandon gives us a left-handed bat in the line-up and is a versatile player. Brogan earned the starting spot at shortstop when we moved Emery to second base. Bigley is one of the best third basemen I’ve had in my career here. He’s like a silent assassin — he just makes plays.”
While the pitching staff and infield are pretty much settled heading into the season, there are some questions in the outfield.
This much is certain — junior Tyler Brandenburg, an honorable mention All-GWOC North pick as a sophomore, will start in center field and bat leadoff for the Trojans. Senior Matt McGillivary, West, Kloeker, Dakota Hamman and Trent Bell, along with junior Luke Severt, all are battling it out for time at the other two outfield positions.
“Brandenburg is a tremendous athlete, so we are pretty set there,” Welker said. “At the corners, we have a lot of questions. McGillivary might have a lead at one spot because he is such a tremendous athlete. But we really don’t know for sure what we will be doing at the corners yet. There’s a lot of guys battling for spots out there.”
Junior Jacob Adams will be the team’s designated hitter as he battles back from a serious arm injury suffered last summer. The Trojans will need his bat in the line-up.
“We can pitch and we can play defense — the big question for us is going to be how well we can hit,” Welker said. “We only hit .241 as a team last year — although we did steal 69 bases, the most we’ve had in my career. I expect us to be able to run the bases. But we’ve got to hit better.”
If Troy can do that, Welker said, he likes his team’s chances.
“We want to compete for the North title,” he said. “We know Butler and Tippecanoe will be up there, too. They always are. It’s a tough division.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong