by Steve Peterson
“It’s time to play some baseball,” said Akron-Westfield Baseball Coach Gordy Johnson, following the final practice of the preseason.
The Westerners’ main strength this summer will be an equal talent base. At all positions — which makes it difficult for Johnson to pick a starting nine, and in fact, there could be much change over from game to game.
“We have never had as many guys as close to playing varsity at the same time. It’s great, and it will be exciting and tough to find playing time,” said Johnson as he announced the starting lineup for the season opener which was home against Kingsley-Pierson.
Senior Gregg Taylor got the nod on the mound as the Opening Night starting pitcher, and he will catch when not pitching.
Freshman Jess McMahon got the nod at catcher.
Senior Chet Willer, who had 18 hits last year, will man first base.
Junior Sam Mace will handle second base.
Senior Cory Eskra looks “very good at shortstop. And tonight, due to golf, was the first time he hit and he hit one that hit the Dirks’ building,” said Johnson, referring to Dirks Motors, which is over the left field fence at Sargent Field. Eskra hit 0.300 last season as the team’s top hitter with 27 hits and also had nine-for-nine in stolen base tries.
Senior Spencer Frankl is handling the “hot corner” of third base. He hit an average of 0.241 last year with 19 hits.
In the outfield, A-W had sophomore Jacob Neubrand in left field, senior Cole Oltmanns in center field; and sophomore Devon Myers in right field.
After Taylor, the pitching staff will be Oltmanns and Willer and “not necessarily as numbers one to three,” said Johnson. Spenser Wardrip, a freshman, Neubrand, Alex Foley and Eskra will also see time on the mound.
The depth factor includes seniors Kyle Schroeder and Dylan Myers; junior Taylor Anderson; sophomore Seth Klemme, freshman Caleb Colt; eighth graders are Austin Allard, Aaron Allard, Cal Eskra, Dylan Irizarry and Montana Jackson.
Defense has been emphasized throughout the preseason for “three and done” innings.
“This group has a lot of chemistry and they’re all good kids and like to hang out with each other,” said Johnson.
A-W will have a “tough as nails” time in the War Eagle Conference, the mentor added, but will be up to the challenge.
After Kingsley-Pierson in the opener, the Westerners were at a tough Unity Christian squad in Orange City. The Westerners will host South O’Brien on May 22; be at West Lyon at 5:30 p.m. May 24; Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn in Hartley May 28; host Remsen-St. Mary’s on May 29 and at Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn May 31. A-W is at the MOC-Floyd Valley tournament in Orange City June 1.
The A-W coaching staff along with Johnson this summer will be Jim Frankl and Mike Harris.
Come out and enjoy some aggressive Westerner baseball against some of the area’s best.