This is the year Woodward-Granger gets back into serious competition. The stats say as much, as does the team.

“They’re confident. They know when to step on it,” head coach Eric Evans said.

After 29 wins in 2017 before falling in substate, the Hawks dropped down to only 19 wins for 2018. The stats say that team has enough to get back to greater glory this season.

Based on their total runs scored and allowed last season, the Hawks were projected to finish with a record of 23-6, four wins above their true standing. Advanced metrics project that spells higher performance for 2019. With a majority of the team’s top contributors returning, that win total is well within reach. Evans said it all starts with the bullpen.

“We got 11 or 12 pitchers I could throw out anytime,” he enthusiastically said, later calling his starting rotation a “four-headed monster.”

That comprises three of last year’s leaders with juniors Brandon Worley, Caden Easter, Jay Dorenkamp, and Alex Bice. Dorenkamp closed his sophomore campaign as the team’s strikeout leader with 39 Ks with an ERA of only 0.57 and a perfect 7-0 record. Bice makes the jump to full-time duty after leading the way with eight saves last season.

Evans voiced further enthusiasm for his pitching staff, saying all the team needs is “two or three runs” to stay in the win column.

“Last year we were a little young in pitching but now that they’re all juniors [it should go well],” Evans said, adding that he has confidence in a number of underclassmen to take charge.

Included in that assessment is sophomore Worth Henry, the team’s “utility guy.” He’ll take on a role as a closer but will play an even more vital role in the batting order with his mix of speed and consistency at the plate.

While a majority of the roster consists of young talent, Evans didn’t discount the elder group of juniors and seniors.

“Two years ago we were loaded,” Evans said. “But [a few] of these guys were on that team and played a lot.”

That includes last year’s two leading scorers Bryce Achenbach and Reese Jamison. Both juniors, the two were integral pieces to the 2017 season and were key figures as sophomores well, stepping into an even larger role this year. Jamison brings one of the most consistent swings to the plate with a .338 batting average and also led the team with 24 stolen bags last year.

Achenbach finished a hair behind Jamison on average, but at the top of the order, his 26 hits in 2018 were second on the team. Like Jamison, he brings a good blend of speed and power, stealing 18 bases last year. Of note, the team doesn’t return any home runs and will instead rely on consistently converting plate appearances into hits, letting speedsters do the rest of the work.