There are plenty of positives to draw from for the Lake Center Christian baseball team in the 2012 season. A strong returning core, the return of coach Tim Hefty and a young roster with plenty of energy should all be key assets.
There are negatives as well. A roster with just 12 players means that Hefty won't have the sort of depth coaches like to count on for a new year. However, the Tigers have a solid quartet returning that should be a good building block.
"We are returning a solid core with juniors Alex Armstrong, Nate Raymondi and Scott Hefty and sophomore Jon Wittmer. They accounted for over 50 percent of our offense and 75 percent of our innings pitched during last year's rain-shortened season," Hefty said of back to a 5-7 campaign.
Armstrong will rotate between third base, shortstop and pitcher and serve as the team's leadoff hitter. He struggled at the plate at times last season, but Hefty believes he can bounce back in 2012. Raymondi will also have a place in the starting rotation this season. Wittmer and junior Scott Hefty will fill out the rotation, although Hefty is expected to see time all over the diamond, including catcher, first base and the outfield.
"Scott is an unselfish player willing to play wherever he is asked," Tim Hefty said.
A collection of new players will be counted on the contribute energy for the Tigers. Dan Raines will return to the team after taking one year off and freshmen Racco DiLauro, Collin Floyd, Evan Raber and Michael Swartzentruber will need to contribute from the outset. All four of the freshmen have significant travel baseball experience.
"We are young again this year, and not very deep," Tim Hefty said. "This could lead to some 'rookie' mistakes early in the season. If this group of players can reach their potential, we should have a very exciting season."
Raines, DiLauro and Floyd will all be part of the pitching staff, as well as contributing in the field. Swartzentruber, despite being a freshman, will be a key component in the outfield, which will consist entirely of freshmen. Their ability to play mistake-free baseball and avoid the sort of errors that can turn a one-run inning into a five- or six-run inning will also be vital for the Tigers.
Hefty will rely on his background coaching in the baseball and basketball programs at First Friends Church and travel baseball teams to guide his team. Last year was his first season coaching at the varsity level, so he should also benefit from having a year of varsity experience under his belt.
The team has set several goals for the season and in the face of a schedule that Hefty characterizes as a much tougher schedule than last season's weather-truncated slate, those goals will take on an added level of difficulty for LCCS.
Page 2 of 2 - "While we recognize that our schedule is tougher, we have set the following goals for our team. First, we want to win at least 60 percent of our games. Second, we want to win at least three tournament games. And third, we will not be on the losing end of a game ended under the mercy rule," the second-year coach said.
Attaining those marks would represent another year of improvement for a team that went from three wins in 2010 to five wins (in just 12 games) in 2011. Adding to that total would represent another step in the right direction for a team with a good idea of where it wants to go.