By Rick Palsgrove
(Editor’s note: I decided to proceed with this preview story about the Cruiser baseball program so the community could read about the team. However, with the ongoing coronavirus crisis the status of the season and the schedule remains uncertain at this time.)
The Groveport Madison Cruiser varsity baseball team is looking to build on last season’s success.
“I hesitate to make a prediction on our chances to win the OCC Capital Division,” said Cruiser Coach Chris McKee. “After finishing 10-5 and runner up to a 14-1 New Albany team last season (only one game ahead of third place Canal Winchester), we understand how competitive life is in our division.”
McKee said it’s difficult to predict which specific teams in the division will provide the most competition for the Cruisers.
“The Capital is a very strong league, top to bottom,” said McKee. “I believe we played a one run game with every opponent in the division last season, a couple in extra innings. Great coaching and dedicated players make our division a real battle every night.”
McKee said a strength of this year’s team is experience.
“We had a few seasons where that wasn’t the case,” said McKee. “Our inexperience proved to be a weakness. This season I think one of our strengths will be the fact that we return a lot of varsity level game experience. I also believe that, as our kids are getting older, our pitching staff has a little more depth and some more options day to day.”
An area needing improvement include better run production, according to McKee.
“We left way too many runners on base last season and really just didn’t score enough to get us over the hump,” said McKee. “Our pitching and defense were both outstanding. Better situational offense and the importance of taking advantage of opportunities is something that I have to do a better job of emphasizing.”
Players to watch this year
McKee said there are several senior Cruiser players that are expected to have a good season. These include:
•Catcher and third baseman Robby Morgan, who was first team All-OCC last year and is committed to attend Central Michigan University.
•Pitcher and infielder Trey Mantle, who last year was first team All-OCC and first team All-Central District and who is committed to attend Urbana University.
•Shortstop Austin Snyder, who was first team All-OCC and second team All-Central District last year. Snyder is committed to attend the University of Findlay (football).
•Catcher, outfielder, infielder, and pitcher Austin Gautier, who was second team All-OCC last year.
“He’s versatile like a Swiss Army knife,” said McKee of Gautier.
•Pitcher and first baseman Colin Rice was OCC Honorable Mention last year.
McKee said other players to note are junior Tyler McKee, sophomore Aiden Barnhart, and sophomore Kyle Jennings.
“We expect these underclassmen to be major contributors on our team,” said McKee. “Hard working, versatile ball players!
The Cruiser baseball field
The Cruiser baseball field, tucked away behind Cruiser Stadium, has a cozy, traditional feel to it.
“It is definitely ‘traditional’ in the fact that there are no frills,” said McKee of the field. “It’s a bit quirky in that it sits on the outskirts of our athletic facilities. It’s not visible from much of anywhere and it’s not easy to get to. It may be considered a little rough around the edges, but that adds to its charm. It’s ours and we love the good and imperfect things about it, all the same. If any of that gives us a home field advantage, well, I’ll take what I can get!”