Do we dare say it? Three-peat.
From the Class 4A sectional opener to the day (or night) it is beaten in the tournament – if such an event occurs – Carroll’s Chargers, in search of their third consecutive title, will be among the state’s most followed teams in high school baseball.
Four starters return from last year’s 32-2 team that defeated Indianapolis Cathedral for the second consecutive year in the title game: Infielder Tanner Ginder, center fielder Grant Wilson, catcher Elliott Ford and shortstop/pitcher Peyton Lengacher will comprise the nucleus of the Chargers, who are tied for second in the Class 4A poll.
Carroll: The Chargers will be building from the inside out, as all four players returning will be in the middle of the field. Trying to find pitching to go with Lengacher will be the early challenge. Juniors Blake Converset and Mason Neuman and freshman Matt Kent will be called upon.
DeKalb: The Barons, who lost to Carroll 7-5 in the sectional final, return pitcher/outfielder Carter Stafford, who hit .391 last season, with five home runs and 27 RBI. He also owned a 2.00 ERA, striking out 30 in 28 innings. Nick McDonald (.418) and Phil Bassett (4-0, 1.75 ERA) also return.
Huntington North: Cody Frazier leads the list of experience players coming back, but he has plenty of help. Kendall Whitman, headed to IPFW, had a .446 average and 35 RBI; Evan Brown hit .364 with 11 home runs and 35 RBI, with an 8-1 pitching record and a 2.85 ERA; Mitch Trieglaff had a .340 average; and Jared Green was at .382.
Northrop: Although the Bruins finished 13-15 last season, they have been picked to win the SAC this season by the league’s coaches. Northrop has just two seniors in Josh Fisher and Tyler Herbst. Fisher is the No. 1 pitcher on the team with a 7-2 record and a 2.52 ERA last year, with 65 strikeouts in 50 innings. Herbst, an outfielder, hit .318 with 22 RBI.
Norwell: Josh Van Meter spearheads an experienced group that is guided by senior first baseman/DH Kyler Mills, who hit .250 last year. Junior Tailur Szarenski returns with a .311 average, and on the mound will be sophomore Jonah Patten (1-1) and junior Luke Hunter (6-1, 1.20 ERA).
Jackson Boyce, Leo: The junior was named Class 3A honorable mention all-state and All-ACAC. Boyce hit .380, scored 39 runs and stole 19 bases. He’ll move from second base to shortstop this season.
Will Coursen-Carr, South Side: The senior All-SAC pitcher who has committed to Indiana University had 115 strikeouts and just 20 walks in 89 innings last season. He finished 7-3 with a 1.66 ERA.
Cody Frazier, Huntington North: A senior outfielder, Frazier was named first team all-state. The Huntington University commit had a .416 average with 13 home runs and 47 RBI.
Peyton Lengacher, Carroll: The senior shortstop led the team with 43 hits. His .406 average was second, as were his 36 RBI, and his six home runs were third on the team.
Josh VanMeter, Norwell: The junior third baseman batted .552 last season and led the area with 47 hits. He batted .537 and led the area with 47 hits and stole 23 bases.
State success: The Fort Wayne area has produced 10 state champions over the past 10 years. Carroll won back-to-back Class 4A titles in 2010-11; Snider won 4A titles in 2009 and ’06; Norwell claimed 3A titles in 2003 and ’07; Bishop Luers won the 2A championship in 2008; and Blackhawk Christian won Class A titles in 2002, 2005 and 2006.
Sectional changes: There will be several teams changing sectional locations, and a few that will compete in a different class in 2012.
Seeking history: Having won Indiana championships the past two seasons, Carroll will be in search of three in a row – a feat accomplished only by Jasper from 1996 to 1998, with ’98 being the first year of class baseball, when Jasper was a 3A team.
Change at Snider: Following a career in which he led Snider to Class 4A titles in 2006 and 2009, Andy Owen announced his resignation as the Panthers’ coach after 19 years. Longtime assistant Marc Skelton has taken over the coaching duties.
Five ranked: Carroll’s tie for second place in the Class 4A preseason poll is the highest rating among local teams. Huntington North is No. 7 in 4A; Norwell is ranked fifth in 3A; and in Class A, Blackhawk Christian is No. 5 and Canterbury is No. 7.