The Valmeyer Pirates are hoping that strength in numbers translates to a winning baseball season in 2015.
Gone is Dakota Maus, one of the area’s top pitchers and hitters from a season ago, along with graduating seniors Derek Hoffman and Ethan May.
But Valmeyer returns a strong group of players from a team that won 13 games last season, plus there is an influx of talented freshmen.
“We’ll definitely miss Dakota,” Valmeyer head coach Greg Reinhardt said. “But the troops are coming in. Look out below.”
Maus posted a 7-1 record on the mound last season with 88 strikeouts and led the team in hitting at .394.
“As a team, I think we can collectively fill the void,” Reinhardt said.
Returning starters include sophomore Easton Wallace, junior Mark Nappier and seniors Hunter Brewer, Zach Williams, Griffin Seidler and Eric Smith. Fellow seniors Cole Matzenbacher and Ryan Unterseh also had numerous starts throughout last season.
Nappier, who catches, pitches and plays first base, hit .380 last season for the Pirates with a .600 slugging percentage and 34 RBIs.
Brewer, a pitcher and shortstop, hit .333 last season with a .480 on base percentage and posted a 3.34 ERA on the mound in 2014.
Williams collected three wins on the mound last season with an impressive 2.66 ERA. He also hit two home runs with 19 RBIs at the plate.
The coach is also impressed with Wallace, who had a great summer playing for the Valmeyer Junior American Legion team.
“We expect big things from him on the mound and at the plate,” Reinhardt said.
The eight incoming freshmen (Andrew Whipple, Drew Maus, Michael Chism, Ryan Brinkman, Cole Juelfs, Tyler Kempfer, Jake Krekel and Evan Thien) played on a junior high team that won the SIJHSAA state title and also gained valuable experience on the Valmeyer Junior American Legion team this past summer.
“We know New Athens will be tough in the conference and come regional time, but I believe our experience and depth defensively can get us over the hump to challenge for both,” Reinhardt said.
The team suffered losses to Gibault and Carlyle last week to open the season, but hopes to rebound with games this week at Wood River (Monday), home against Okawville (Wednesday) and at Freeburg (Thursday).