Wildcats strong with senior leadership
Many baseball enthusiasts will say that pitching is the most important position in the sport and that a staff with depth will result in a successful season.
If so, then Paden City will have high expectations this season as they return all six pitchers from last season’s sectional championship team. The staff consists of Ryan Thoburn, Josh Bennett, Chaz Heasley, Malakai Anderson, Ricky Wright and Wes Cosper.
Cosper is back at full strength this year after recovering from surgery on his thumb. Last season he only pitched seven innings.
“This is the deepest staff I have had at Paden City High School,” said veteran Head Coach Brent Croasmun entering his 21st season for the Wildcats.
Last year they combined for 223 strikeouts, 112 walks and an earned run average of 4.44. For high school, those are strong numbers and were a large reason they won a school-record 22 games.
Whoever is pitching, he will be sure to have a solid defense around him as the entire infield will return. Last year they had a fielding percentage of .918. Several of the players are interchangeable which will give the Wildcats some versatility.
As if that weren’t enough for opposing teams to worry about, the ‘Cats bats can do some damage as well.
Returning are five players from last years squad had an average over .300, including their top three batters and five of their top seven.
Cosper led all hitters with a .416 average with 52 hits. Anderson followed with a .367 average with 40 hits, Heasley at .368 with 32 hits, Chris Loy hitting .314 and 27 hits, and Ricky Wright with .311 and 37 hits.
Overall the team hit for a .339 average with 69 extra base hits including 10 home runs.
They also run the base paths well. Last year they had a team total of 168 stolen bases. Anderson is the top returning runner with 28 bases swiped followed by Cosper with 26, Wright with 22, and Thoburn with 17 respectively.
The concern for Croasmun comes in replacing catcher Coty Meadows and outfielders Justin Grimes and Coty Beaver. Additionally, Meadows was the Paden City power hitter with a .362 average, 34 RBIs, and four home runs.
Looking to fill the No. 2 position will be Loy, Anderson and Thoburn. Loy caught a few innings last year as a backup to Meadows. Anderson and Thoburn are both good athletes that have been behind the plate in Pony League.
Probable starters in the outfield will be Bennett, Zach Yost, and Mitch Stewart. Thoburn can play one of the positions if needed. Doug Shepherd will also compete for time in the outfield.
Bennett, who has been a pitcher the last two years, will start either in the outfield or at third base. He is a good athlete who will improve as he gets a chance to play everyday. Yost, who was a courtesy runner and pinch runner last year has the skills to become a good outfielder. Like Bennett, he needs playing time.
Rounding out the squad will be Keith Kline, Trey Leonard, Ben Anderson, Jay Billiter, and Jared Stewart. Croasmun’s assistant coach will be Jeff Hohn in his fourth season.
“This is a veteran team which should win a lot of games. If our pitching staff continues to do what they did last year, we should be very successful,” Croasmun said about his roster that boasts 19 letters. “We still need to improve in several areas and we know we have to keep working if we want to achieve our goals this ear.
“We will set our goals very high with one of them to reach the state tournament. This is a great bunch of kids to coach and I know they will work hard to be the best they can be.”
The excitement is sure to start early in the season as Paden City opens up with the Silver Knights at Tyler Consolidated on Friday, a game many in the area have wanted to see. It will be a home and home series with the Silver Knights making the short trip to Paden City on Wednesday, April 8.
Also, Magnolia will be visiting Paden City for the first time in a while with a date on April 29.