BASEBALL: Logansport opens the season Saturday at LaPorte

Mar. 29—The Logansport baseball team will be a bit short-handed when the Berries open the season at LaPorte on Saturday.

The Berries return just four starters from last year's team and will be down two of them because they are on a Spring Break cruise.

Senior Dylan Pearson, who is slated as the No. 1 pitcher to start the season, and junior second baseman Cayden Walker won't be in uniform for the doubleheader at LaPorte on Saturday.

"That's the right side of our infield for one game and our No. 1 pitcher for another game," Logansport coach Dan Frye said. "We know LaPorte's a very good program and we expect them to be very good. We want to compete, but in the big scheme of it we'll go in and we know we're going to try to keep our pitchers at a certain number and try to keep them healthy and let them build a little strength."

Pearson is coming off a season in which he went 6-2 with a 2.27 ERA. He has improved his velocity over the offseason and now can reach 90 mph. He recently signed with Goshen College as a pitcher. He'll also be one of the Berries' top hitters.

Outside of Pearson the Berries don't return a lot of varsity experience on the mound. Junior left-hander Carson Dubes looks to be the No. 2 pitcher entering the season, said Frye, who added most of the rotation will probably get a look during the two games on Saturday.

"We have a number of guys that pitch and more than likely will get an opportunity to throw most all of them if not all of them. We'll see how they're doing and how well they're in the strike zone and give them a chance to get their feet under them," he said.

Frye said that seniors Jace Smith, Cooper Smith and Zac Freels and juniors Micah Rogers, Deagan Kitchel, Max Kitchell and Aiden Swank could see time on the mound. Senior shortstop Isaac Russell is another option on the mound but he is dealing with a tender pitching arm to start the season. Frye said that he's looking for Russell and Cooper Smith to be good options to be closers this season as seniors. He added a few players have tender arms to start the year as the team has been outside a lot this past month practicing at Turner Field.

Jake Fincher, who broke seven of the eight individual boys swimming records at LHS this school year, will step into the role as the Berries' starting catcher. Swank, who also plays outfield, will be his backup.

Pearson and Dubes are the first basemen. With Pearson out of town on Saturday, Cooper Smith will play at first when Dubes is pitching.

Walker will return to his starting second baseman role and he will also regularly be in the batting lineup, Frye said.

Russell, who hit .388 with 14 extra base hits, 16 RBIs and 35 RBIs, returns as the starting shortstop. Sophomore Hudson McKinney will be the backup middle infielder and will get the start at second on Saturday, Frye said.

Cooper Smith returns as the starting third baseman. He hit .254 with 11 RBIs and 15 runs scored a year ago. Jace Smith will get the start at third with Smith at first on Saturday, Frye said.

Micah Rogers will be the starting left fielder. Jace Smith also plays in left.

The starting center fielder is sophomore Bryson Herr.

"He's going to be a fixture for the varsity for the next three years in center field for sure," Frye said.

Deagan Kitchel is the starting right fielder, Frye added.

Other players in the mix for varsity time include seniors Michael Gleitz, Jon Moss and Jackson Frye.

The Berries are coming off a season they went 22-10, but they've lost six senior starters to graduation. It was a season the Berries went 3-10 against schools with enrollments of over 1,800 students and 19-0 against schools with less than 1,800 students.

This season is the Berries' final in the NCC, which will have a different setup this season.

Frye said there won't be a league tournament this year.

"My understanding, and I may have little bits of it wrong, but my understanding is we're just going to play our side and whoever is first place on our side and whoever is in first place on their side, those are the co-champions. There's not going to be a tournament where we're playing the other division," he said.

The Berries' schedule has a different look this year. The only NCC East opponent they play is Anderson, which won't factor into the league championship, Frye said.

The Berries play future Hoosier Conference opponent Western during opening week on Thursday in Russiaville. The Berries also play in two in-season tournaments where Frye said they could see Penn and Fort Wayne Carroll.

One opponent the Berries won't see in the regular season is Harrison.

The teams won't play after last year's sectional game that Harrison won 4-3 in which afterwards the coaching staffs for both teams got into a shouting match and were pointing fingers at each other.

Frye later lambasted the Raiders for a perceived lack of sportsmanship throughout the contest and afterwards in his postgame comments to the local media.

Frye said the usual two-game set with Harrison will be treated as 1-1 for each team as far as the conference standings go.

"We don't get to play Harrison because of the love we feel for each other," he said. "Harrison basically we're 1-1. We won one, they won one, it's whatever, apparently because us coaches can't get along.

"McCutcheon and Harrison are leaving the conference and Logansport is leaving the conference — well I guess they were forced out and we chose to leave. That North Central Conference Tournament was a fun tournament to play in. It's not an easy one. For us the sectional tournament is our North Central Conference Tournament. It's the same thing for the most part.

"We're in the same sectional, so there's a good chance we could play Harrison in the sectional. If we do we'll do what we do. We're going to go out there. If we can get all the nonsense out of the baseball game I'd greatly appreciate it. Can we just go play the game without being stupid? It's nonsense. I don't know when it ever started. It's terrible. It's bad for the game."

Despite losing six starters including most of the pitching staff, Frye is looking to field another strong team.

"I always plan on winning. I think you have to, you have to have that expectation," he said. "I don't know that I've ever taken the field and I thought we were going to be beat. There's definitely teams out there that are probably deeper than us and the pitching staff is deeper than us, but I'm glad to put our kids up to the test with anybody.

"Spring break week has slowed us down tremendously because we don't have a full team here. But as I look around the lineup, I see kids that can perform. From time to time we're going to make mistakes. We lost a lot with all those kids. We've talked a lot about that we've got to be better defensively, we've got to throw the ball in the strike zone more and we've got to cut down on strikeouts."

Logan travels to Lafayette Jeff Tuesday and hosts the Bronchos Wednesday to open NCC play.