Perry baseball enters the season with a luxury not many other clubs this year have: Experience.
While a number of sports lacked seniors, the baseball lineup has graduates in spades with six on the team this year. Behind them, five juniors return to the fold. Over three-fifths of the team are juniors or seniors, something first-year head coach Austin Daniels said he's excited about to improve upon last year's 9-12 finish.
“We've got several returning guys. Kaleb Olejniczak, Justin Stammer, Keghan West,” Daniels said. “And we've got a few new faces too. It's just a matter of getting everybody together. Baseball's not a game where one guy does it all. You have to play your part.”
He said that he also really likes “the fact that we're competitive.” That will be the glue that brings everyone together moving forward in the season but it all starts up top with the returning talent.
Olejniczak returns as the team's leading hitter. He led the team last year with 24 hits and two home runs. He also brings the most consistent bat this year with a .364 batting average. Fresh off running at the state track meet, he'll continue rounding the bases this year after leading the way with seven bases stolen in 2017 without being caught once.
While Olejniczak brings a high level of consistency to the table, the team will be searching for replacements for Gavin Boyer and Aaron Lockwood. The two contributed 36 percent of the team's runs batted in, leaving room for the next man to step up.
That may fall on junior Kato Dougan, who returns with a .292 slugging percentage, only trailing Olejniczak's .576 mark. Senior Justin Stammer also brings good consistency to the plate, getting on base 39 percent of at-bats.
Though the offense holds a good number of seniors, the mound is looking for a number of replacements. Of the five pitchers that started throughout 2018, three were seniors. Juniors Keghan West and Avery Meister are the only two returning.
West took in 36 innings as a sophomore in seven starts, winning two games. He also returns as the team's strikeout leader after fanning 21 batters. Meister only appeared in 20 innings over six games, retiring 10 batters for a similar strikeout rate to West. Senior Alex Morales is expected to see substantial action as well.
Daniels said he hopes to see the team ultimately come together no matter the experience coming into the season and rely on the details to advance.
“What we have to reverse is when things go bad, getting over that,” Daniels said. “But we are competitive. We do a lot of little things right.”