Although they lost some key pieces, the Swanton baseball team has a lot of experience back for the 2018 season. Ten letter winners return, led by all-leaguers Michael Lawniczak and Hunter Mix.
Gone to graduation are Gunnar Oakes, first team all-league; pitcher Noah Johnston; Josh Adcock, honorable mention all-league; and Jonny Shanks.
Despite the losses, coach Tim McCarthy sees pitching as a strength of the squad.
“I really like our pitching depth,” said McCarthy. “Zach Bloom (32 IP, 1.53 ERA), Roman Epley (36 IP, 3.50 ERA), Austin Luce (35 IP, 1.63 ERA) all return with a lot of varsity experience. We have 4 others who also threw innings at the varsity level last season.”
Bloom is the lone senior on the team and a Siena Heights University signee.
“Offensively we return Michael Lawniczak, Hunter Mix and Epley who were three of our top four hitters a year ago. I also really like our team speed this year.”
Lawniczak, a catcher, was first team All-NWOAL last season as a sophomore, while Mix, an infielder and pitcher, was second team as a sophomore.
Other juniors returning for the Bulldogs this season are Austin Luce (P/OF), Zach Zawodni (OF), Xavier Williams (OF), Wyatt Lake (P/Util), Tommy Chonko (IF), Carter Swank, and Derek Floyd (IF/P).
“In order to be successful this season we will need to improve defensively,” said McCarthy. “Our pitchers did a really nice job throwing to contact last season but inconsistency defensively really hurt us.”
The coach said the strength of the defense last season was the outfield but two of the three starters graduated. “Success will also hinge on a handful of newcomers filling the void left by last year’s seniors. Noah Johnston threw a lot of big games for us last season and Gunnar Oakes was certainly a presence on the field as well,” McCarthy said. “Guys will need to step up to replace them and the others lost to graduation.”
He sees defending league and district champion Archbold as the NWOAL favorite.
“I do feel like the league is as balanced as I’ve ever seen it. Any number of teams could challenge for a league title in 2018,” said McCarthy.
Despite the number of returning letter winners, the Bulldogs are relatively young.
“We have a young team overall (one senior) that will be tested with a tough non-league and NWOAL schedule. That being said we were able to get quite a few guys some experience last year as sophomores. We have a lot of experience back in key spots and only graduated one pitcher from last year’s team,” said McCarthy. “The key to success for this team is continued defensive improvement and how the newcomers handle the transition to a full time varsity schedule.”
The Bulldogs open the season on Saturday at Northwood. Their non-league slate this season includes Start, Eastwood, Northview, St. Francis, Maumee, Central Catholic, Bowling Green and St. John’s.
Reach Drew Stambaugh at 419-335-2010