MOUNT CARMEL — Baseball coach Beau Smith believes things can only improve after last season’s 4-18 season for Mount Carmel and it’s not just wishful thinking that has the second-year Aces’ head coach optimistic.
“We have six or seven starters back from last year and we lose only one pitcher and we gain one with Kaleb Applebey too,” said Smith. “Everyone’s had a chance pitch and practice so we could see them and we’re a year strong and have a year more experience. There’s a ton of confidence in everyone.”
The Aces will open the 2018 season Thursday when they host Newton.
“Our pitching and fielding look great. Fielding isn’t one thing that people don’t think about when they talk about Mount Carmel. That’s one thing I’m trying to change. It’s always been, ‘they can hit.’ We can still hit, not we’re getting that much better in fielding.”
Evan Kieffer is the lone senior on the Aces’ basketball team.
“With one senior all you can do is improve," said Smith. "Still, we’re young with experience which is great to have. It’s going to be a completely different ball team from last year. Inconsistency is the biggest thing we’ve got to get past. We can’t score six runs in the first inning and not score the rest of the game. That’s the biggest thing we have to overcome is putting it on someone and keep firing at them.”
Tyler Beavers will start at catcher. The sophomore has a solid work ethic that Smith says shows behind the plate.
“He’s a sophomore that works hard,” said Smith. “He’s good at the catching skills and wants to work at it.”
Connor Lane and Ashton Walker could also see time behind the dish according to Smith.
At first base, Bret Doan will be the main starter there. When he’s pitching, Smith says Kieffer or Kaleb Applebey will more than likely slide in and play the position.
Aden Gill ahs second locked down thanks to a stellar freshman season last year that saw him complete 28 straight attempts his way.
At shortstop, it will be Logan Durham, who will play the position about 90 percent of the time.
“Adam Stoneberger [who will start at third most other games] will come over when [Durham] is pitching,” Smith noted. [We] might see Connor Lane and Ashton Walker over there [at third base] as well. Lucas Hall and Trenton Wilkerson are trying to look for a spot.”
Two juniors competing for playtime are Lucas Odom and Drew Arnott.
“Lucas has come along way,’ said Smith. “His pitching has improved. Drew is trying to come from an ACL [injury] and work his way back in somewhere.”
In the outfield, from left to right, will be Kieffer, Cade Newkirk, and Applebey. Those three will also be the Aces’ main pitchers with Doan, and Logan Durham thrown in there as well. Smith also says Cody Newsum will pitch but will come out of the bullpen.
“Our accuracy early has been great which is one of the things we usually have a lot of trouble with,” said Smith. “Our three outfielders are in the mid to upper 80s. They’re really going to power it by some people.
“Adam Stoneberger has a lot of movement. He’s been real consistent throughout. He pitched a lot for jayvee and last summer. Ashton Walker found his arm late and is getting up there in speed. He needs to work a little better with the base runners.
“With Kaleb Applebey I didn’t know what to expect. I knew he has a strong arm from football, but with that movement he has he’s a little three-quarter sidearm, and it’s moving a lot.
“We know what we’re getting out of Bret Doan and Logan Durham when they’re throwing. They’re always consistent. They’re always around the plate. They’re going to get you group ball; it’s just a matter of, can we make the plays.”
Smith says the Aces will have to rely on all facets of the game including hitting, pitching, and defense to be successful.
“This isn’t going to be one of those 8-7 [run] teams,” Smith explains. “It’s going to be a close, 5-2, 3-1, type team. Each guy, every time they go up, I believe they could get a hit. Early on it’s going to take a little bit to get there. They’re still young and have a little kinks in their swing.”
The Big 8 Conference ranks as one of the best in the state of Illinois and Smith says his team will see no better competition than that of league play.
“About every team in the conference has a pitcher that throws the mid-80s,” said Smith. “Seems like, every year, there’s at least one pitcher in the conference that goes on and plays Division I or Division II somewhere. You’ve got to be ready for that. The three hits for most teams are kids that hit six to seven home runs. You look at the Big 8 all-conference from last year, six of the guys are going Division II or better. You’ll never see anyone better than what you’ll see in the conference.”
Contact Register Sports Editor Paul Wilcoxen at (618) 263-1004 ext 1025, email@example.com, or on Twitter @paulwilcoxen