The end of the 2018 baseball season brought plenty of excitement for St. Clair.
It took two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning for St. Francis Borgia Regional to stave off elimination at the hands of the Bulldogs in district semifinal action. That game was just one day after Mason Dodson hurled a one-hit shutout to eliminate Union.
Though Dodson is among the players lost to graduation from that 7-15-1 season last year, the Bulldogs still have plenty to look forward to this spring.
“I am extremely excited for this upcoming year,” St. Clair Head Coach Mitchell Lundy said. “We played some really good baseball down the stretch last year, but unfortunately lost to a tough Borgia team in the semifinal round of districts. Last year we lost a lot of one-run baseball games and that experience can only be beneficial for this upcoming season.”
Six of St. Clair’s losses were decided by two runs or less in 2018. The Bulldogs finished 2-5 in one-run games.
The Bulldogs will return eight starters from a year ago, including seniors Michael Hughes, Timmy Hoffman, Zack Teems and Bailey Smith. Juniors Dalton Thompson and Johnny Kindel are also back, as are sophomores Landon Roberts and Sam Oermann.
Hughes and Thompson are expected to lead the pitching rotation for the Bulldogs and both will also contribute to the infield where Hughes remains a part of the battery at catcher and Thompson plays shortstop.
Thompson was 2-0 on the mound in five starts in 2018, posting a 2.20 earned run average with 22 strikeouts in 28.2 innings.
Hughes posted a 1-2 pitching record in seven appearances and finished with a 5.25 ERA and 28 strikeouts over 21.1 innings. He was also tied for the team batting lead with 28 hits and .328 average. Hughes rapped out four doubles, one home run and picked up six runs batted in.
Kindel, Hoffman and Roberts were the team’s top speeds ters on the basepathss with 11, 10 and eight stolen bases respectively.
While the team returns all three starters in the outfield, Hoffman, Kindel and Smith, it’s up the middle where the Bulldogs have the most depth.
“Our catcher position is a position of strength for us, as well as our middle infield,” Lundy said. “We will have some new faces at first and third this year, so those positions will take some time. But, I believe those two spots could end up being strengths for us.”
Those in the mix for the corner infield vacancies include junior Gus Land and sophomores Wes Hinson, Blaine Downey and Chase Walters. Oermann and Roberts could see time at third as well, moving over from the middle infield.
Sophomore Cole Venable joins the varsity and is expected to play a utility role.
Oermann, Smith, Hinson, Land and Downey are all listed as pitching options for the club.
The Bulldogs have 24 players out for the team this season, all of whom were kept to either the varsity of JV rosters. Jeff Thornsberry and Derek Morgan serve as Lundy’s assistant coaches.
St. Clair posted a 4-2 record in Four Rivers Conference play last season, finishing in fourth place.
“Honestly, the Four Rivers Conference is going to be extremely competitive this year,” Lundy said. “We have a lot of good teams and some very good coaches who do a great job of getting their kids ready to play. This year is going to be very competitive. Around the area, Borgia is going to be really good, they return a lot of good players and they are well coached. Hillsboro will be good again, as well as North County.”
The Bulldogs will again share a district, Class 4 District 4, with a group of Four Rivers Conference teams (Union, Sullivan, Pacific and Owensville) and Borgia.
“Being focused is key to being successful and our players started to understand that throughout the season last year,” Lundy said.
“When we were focused and ready to go good things always happened. They understand that this year and I think it will be evident.”
St. Clair will open the season Friday at 4:30 p.m. on the road at Owensville in the opening round of the Four Rivers Classic, which will not impact league standings.