By David Fong
MIAMI COUNTY — Opening day for high school baseball teams is right around the corner.
OK, opening day for high school baseball teams is right around the corner … in theory (but we’ll get to that in a minute).
Before the big day day, however, here are five questions about Miami County baseball that must be asked:
1. Will hits happen for Troy?
Well, Troy coach Ty Welker certainly is hoping so. Last year, Troy’s team batting average was just .241, which was 18th out of 20 teams in the entire Greater Western Ohio Conference. The only teams that hit worse than the Trojans were Springfield (.229) and Trotwood-Madison (.186).
Despite the struggles hitting the ball, however, Troy still went 17-13, thanks in large part to pitching and defense. For the sake of comparison, Springfield went 10-16 last year, while Trotwood went 2-16. So it’s not all about offense.
That being said, however, Troy will absolutely be looking to improve at the plate this season. The Trojans return most of their pitching and defense from last season — if their bats heat up this season, they will win a bunch of baseball games.
2. Can Newton get over the hump?
For the past three years, the Newton baseball team has won sectional titles. Each of the past three years, however, the Indians have then seen their season come to an end in the Division IV district title game. Clearly, that’s a trend Newton — which has not won a district title since the 1990s — would like to see come to an end.
Pitching certainly won’t be a problem for Newton, with future college pitchers Treg Jackson and Cole Weaver anchoring the staff. If everything else comes together, it’s hard not to see the Indians at least putting themselves in a position to break the streak.
3. Can anyone unseat the kings?
For much of the past decade, the road to the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division title has gone straight through Vandalia.
Butler has won the last three GWOC North titles and seven of the past nine North crowns. It does bear mentioning, however, that the two titles Butler didn’t claim in 2012 and 2014 both were won by Troy. So the Trojans have shown in the past they are up to the task.
Tippecanoe joining the GWOC last season also adds another serious contender to the mix. Last season, Butler won the GWOC North with a 14-1 division record, while Tippecanoe was second at 13-2 in the GWOC North. Troy was third at 10-5. Tippecanoe and Butler split last season, while the Trojans and Red Devils also split, which ended up costing Tippecanoe at least a share of the North title.
All of that just goes to show how competitive things could be between those three teams at the top of the North. Don’t count Piqua, Sidney or Greenville out of the mix, either.
4. Will a Miami County team win the Cross County Conference?
Incredibly, it’s been four years since one of Miami County’s five CCC teams — Newton, Covington, Miami East, Bethel and Bradford — have been able to break through and win the conference, with Tri-County North and Arcanum each winning two titles in the past four seasons. There have been several near misses and runner-up finishes by county teams in that team, but none of the five local teams have won the conference since Miami East won or shared three titles in a row from 2011-13.
There’s plenty of talent in the county — expect at least one of those teams to be in the hunt for a CCC title late in the season.
5. How much of the season will actually happen?
Stop us if you’ve heard this one before.
Ohio’s weather has not been kind the past few springs — and considering Miami County got 5 inches of snow dumped on it this week alone, things don’t look good as the end of March approaches. The ground has rarely been dry since the end of the fall season, and none of Miami County’s teams play in domed stadiums. The most uncertainty for any teams this spring — especially the ones playing on grass and dirt fields — will come from the skies above.
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong