With numbers low again this season, the Paden City Wildcat varsity baseball team will begin their season with 11 players, all but two with real varsity experience.
The 'Cats will begin their season this week with five lettermen leading the way: seniors Jared Stewart, Taylor Still, and Kyle Staton; junior Matt Barker, and sophomore Kyle Postlethwait.
Stewart will see time in the outfield as well as at second and first base and fill in as a pitcher when needed; Billiter is the returning varsity catcher and will also see time on the mound; Still will hold down his left field position and pitch a few innings; and Staton will see time mainly at first, third and some right field.
The only junior on the team, Matt Barker, will return to center field, see time at the short stop position as well as pitch. Sophomore letter winner, Postlethwait will stay at third base and see some innings on the mound.
"Offensively we should be better than we were last year," said veteran head coach of the team, Brent Croasmun.
"We did not have one veteran pitcher on the team last year and that was a major weakness for us. We still have a long way to go, but we have some arms we think we can develop into competitive pitchers. Right now, Postlethwait appears to be our strongest arm at this point, and pitched the most innings for us last year."
"We will still be a young baseball team, although we will have four seniors who start."
Along with the starters, also vying for spots on the field for the 'Cats will be: senior Kyle McFadden; sophomore, Tyler Stackpole; and freshmen, Zach Heasley, Craig Allen and Levi Meadows. McFadden will likely see time in the outfield as will Stackpole. Heasley looks to see a good bit of time at first and on the mound while Allen will step into some action at short and second and Meadows will see time at second, catcher and outfield.
"Stewart and Billiter came on strong during the end of the season last year and will have to carry us this year. Kyle Staton improved his hitting as the season progressed and will also be counted on to drive in runs."
The Wildcats lost one senior to graduation last season, Zach Yost. "He will be hard to replace in the lead off spot," the coach said. "He was our lead off hitter and was one of the best base runners in the Ohio Valley. Barker is much stronger swinging the bat and our three freshmen have shown signs of improving our offense."
"Defensively, we will be better,"Croasmun said. Still, Barker and Stewart or Levi Meadows will start in the outfield. Staton may see some time in right field. Our other outfielders will be McFadden and Stackpole. Postlethwait and Staton will play third; Allen will be at shortstop, and Barker will back him up. Heasely will get the start at first, and when he is on the mound, Staton or Stewart will see time there.
In fact, Stewart will anywhere we need him, depending on who is pitching that day."
"Billiter will start at the catcher's position and we're looking to give Levi Meadows some innings behind the plate as well."
Croasmun is being assisted once again by Jeff Hohn, who has been with the team for the past seven years.
Last year, the 'Cats finished their season with four wins, this year, with five seniors, one junior, two sophomores and three freshmen, they're hoping to do much better.
The Wildcats are scheduled to host the Tyler Consolidated Silver Knights on Wednesday at 5 p.m. and will host Cameron Thursday.