The 2021 Triad varsity baseball team is as follows: row one, from the left: Jalen Nott, Zane Robison, Batai Lease, Blake Boldman and J.C. Alexander. Row two, from the left: bat boy Karson Meeker, Ryan Gross, Coleman Hauck, Jared Spors, Drew Campbell and bat boy J.J. Roberts. Row three, from the left: Wyatt Cole, Adam Mroczkowski, Drue Instine, Michael Warner and Derek Bails. Row four, from the left: coach Jason Meeker, Ayden Spriggs, Logan Braun and coach Jon Roberts. (Journal-Tribune photo by Sam Dillon)
The 2021 Triad junior varsity baseball team is as follows: row one, from the left: Ried Todhunter, Rodney Avery, Devin Bradley, Kyle Walborn and Gage Heitman. Row two, from the left: Diego Hernandez, Blake Thornhill, Nick Geehring, Drue Instine and Michael Warner. Row three, from the left: coach Jacob Greve, Ty Thomas, Wyatt Cole, Derek Bails and coach Seth Colker. (Journal-Tribune photo by Sam Dillon)
The Triad baseball team will be looking at the 2021 season as an opportunity to learn.
The Cardinals have no lack of senior leadership on this season’s team with nine fourth-year men on the roster.
What they lack, however, is experience, according to second-year coach Jon Roberts.
“Like all the other teams, our players lost valuable individual, developmental and game experience (during the coronavirus-canceled 2020 season),” he said. “I have nine seniors and only four have any varsity playing time.”
JC Alexander, Batai Lease, Blake Boldman and Coleman Hauck bring varsity experience to the roster and will play utility roles on the team.
Seniors Zane Robison, Ryan Gross, Drew Campbell, Jalen Nott and Jared Spors have all moved up to the varsity roster.
Lease will return to the varsity squad with a .272 batting average and 10 RBIs in 26 games during the 2019 season.
Where Lease shined the most, however, was on the bump for the Cardinals.
He posted a 1.12 ERA In 62.2 innings pitched, while leading the team with 59 strikeouts.
He is the only member of the team returning with Ohio Heritage Conference accolades as a second team all-conference recipient.
Roberts will lean heavily on Lease’s arm, but has also shown in the Cardinals’ first few games of the 2021 season that he is also looking to make his bullpen as deep as possible.
During the first two games, he rotated six different pitchers.
With the lack of team experience and a season lost to COVID-19, Roberts said his squad is taking a little longer to get on the same page.
“With the loss of last season, the players are taking a little longer in developing in-game decisions and some of the basic tactical skills are a little rusty,” he said.
The new coach, though, is also looking at the lack of experience as way to find specific players for specific roles as he leans on the team’s strengths.
“We are a scrappy, fundamental, defensive team with good speed on the bases,” said Roberts. “We also have many utility-type players.”
That speed will hopefully lead to the coach’s goal of finding runs where the team can.
“I want to be able to manufacture runs at will and be the best defensively,” he said.
A few teams in the conference will challenge the Cardinals’ defensive strategy this year.
West Jefferson, Mechanicsburg and Fairbanks were at the top of the OHC North Division two years ago and Roberts believes they will once against be near the top of the conference this season.
However, with the lack of a season last year, not much is known about who they will be facing.
“I think around the league it’s a mutual thinking among the coaches, that really no one knows what each opponent has on their roster,” he said. “I feel it will be the teams that did a lot of off-season preparation that will be at the top.”
Roberts’ hope is that his team will be able to come together and work its way to the top of the conference.
“In the long range, I see us competing for one of the top spots in the OHC,” he said.