Names and faces may change, but the expectations remain the same for Lincoln Trail College's baseball team this season.
Coming off a highly-successful year that saw them reach the NJCAA Northern District Tournament, the Statesmen return a strong core and boast a talented group of newcomers that have gotten off to a great start through seven games this season. Add those factors up and that has veteran head coach Kevin Bowers once again excited about the prospects of his team.
"I've been really pleased with everything I've seen," Bowers said. "In fact, I don't know if I've felt as comfortable with a team as I do this year. Our pitching was outstanding in our first five games and when had some problems (Sunday against Ivy Tech in cool, windy conditions), our offense was good enough to carry us through."
Bowers added that it is not just certain guys that are carrying the load early in the season. The are getting contributions throughout the line-up and just about everyone that has been used off the bench and stepped in and done their job.
"It's not just the with the starting line-up, as the reserves have done the job when called upon," Bowers said. "That gives us a good feeling about things."
Leading the group getting it done at the plate are sophomore outfielders Jordan Brewer (St. Joseph, Mo.) and Tucker Greer (Wilmore, Ky.), sophomore third baseman Coby Taylor (Indianapolis, Ind.), freshman first baseman Christian Bault (Cincinnati, Ohio) and freshman outfielders Brennen Martin (Cincinnati, Ohio) and Jacob Gonzalez (St. Louis, Mo.).
"I have been pleased with the approaches I've seen and I really like what we can do at the plate," Bowers said. "We are multi-faceted, we have a really good blend of power and average and we can really run. We have five or six guys that have been stealing bags for us."
Others who have been swinging hot bats early on this season are freshman catcher Grant Oexmann (Vincennes, Ind.) and freshman infielder Ian Heffley (Kensington, Md.).
"From one through nine, there are no dead outs," Bowers said. "But in our line-up, our 2-4 hitters (Greer, Brewer, Taylor) are special players and they are going to get pitched very hard. So far, the guys behind them have stepped up and done their jobs to protect them. As long as we're getting that, we will figure out how to manage to score runs."
The depth the Statesmen appear to have isn't just reflected with the position players, it carries over to the pitching staff as well. While they usually have one top-of-the-line starter that anchors the staff, this year's squad doesn't have that guy, but they have two in sophomores Nate Beavers (Versailles, Ky.) and Kaleb Huxford (Rockville, Ind.) that have shown the potential to become that guy.
"Those two have stepped up and shown they are capable of being a No. 1 guy," Bowers said. "Then we have (sophomore) Joey Ivey (Nicholasville, Ky.) is right behind them. We don't have a guy that is bringing at 92-93, but we have 10 guys firing it 88 with two or three pitches each for strikes and that makes me feel very comfortable."
Adding to the depth on the mound are sophomores Nate Thomas (Brazil, Ind.), Jackson Niehaus (Vincennes, Ind.) and Zane Bechman (Vincennes, Ind.) and freshmen Brady Bowling (Lexington, Ky.), Conar Steinbaugh (Georgetown) and Jack Hendrix (Upper Arlington, Ohio).
"Nate was steady for us out of the bullpen last year and I expect him to be again this year," Bowers said. "Niehaus and Bechman have really stepped up, Bowling and Steinbaugh have provided us good innings out of the pen and Hendrix is coming off Tommy John surgery, but is making adjustments and could be a big help later in the season."
Maybe even more impressive to Bowers than their offense or pitching is their defense, which he believes is the real strength of the team.
"Our defense has been unreal so far," Bowers said. "That is the thing I've been most pleased with. Gonzalez and Martin have stepped into left field in the absence of (injured) Bryant Schellenbarger and done an outstanding job along with Greer and Brewer and it has been fun to watch those guys work. They have a ton of speed and when the ball goes up, pitchers feel comfortable they are going to go get it. Taylor's bat speaks for itself, but he has busted his tail to improve his quickness and range at third base. (Freshman) Julian Rivera (Raleigh, P.R.) has done everything we've asked at shortstop and (freshman) Tanner Robins (Harrodsburg, Ky.) has been a great surprise. He's played an outstanding second base and is hitting .300 right now. (Freshman) Joel Quirin (Edwardsville) was injured early, but he has an outstanding glove and will find his way into the line-up. Bault has been swinging the heck out of it, but he is an absolute picking machine at first base. He has saved six or seven errors and has done an outstanding job."
"(Sophomore) Jose Ramos (Cayey, P.R.) did yeoman's work behind the plate last year and caught a lot, but we are four-deep back there this year, which we haven't had in a long time. (Freshman) Trevor Cukovecki (Kettering, Ohio) is assimilating very well, freshman Konnor Loewen (Bethalto) has a big-time arm, but just needs to work on the intangibles and Oexmann is swinging a hot bat and we are starting to see his big arm come through after dealing with a shoulder issue."
While having a well-rounded team is necessary to be successful, Bowers believes it ultimately all comes back to pitching.
"It all comes down to pitching and our pitching coach, Nate Glant, has done an amazing job with our staff," Bowers said. "I really like the mentality of our guys. They are thinking like pitchers and if they can continue to do that, we will be able to stay in games."
Although he is not one to make predictions or try to forecast where they will finish in the standings or the postseason, Bowers believes his team has all the pieces to be very successful this season.
"I do like our chances," Bowers said. "If we pitch the way we are capable of and defend the way we are capable of, I like what our offense can do. If we stay healthy and catch a few breaks, I feel like we can be playing into mid-May and beyond."
2018 Lincoln Trail College Statesmen Baseball Roster
No. Name Yr. Pos. Hometown
1 Julian Rivera Fr. IF Raleigh, P.R.
2 Nate Beavers So. P Versailles, Ky.
3 Kaleb Huxford So. P Rockville, Ind.
4 Seth Frey Fr. IF West Terre Haute, Ind.
5 Coby Taylor So. 1B/3B Indianapolis, Ind.
6 Tanner Robins Fr. 2B Harrodsburg, Ky.
7 Brennen Martin Fr. OF Cincinnati, Ohio
9 Konnor Loewen Fr. C Bethalto, Ill.
10 Grant Oexmann Fr. C Vincennes, Ind.
11 Bryson Bloomer Fr. 3B Lexington, Ky.
12 Thomas Cessna So. C/OF Sacramento, Ky.
13 Joel Quirin Fr. IF Edwardsville, Ill.
14 Conar Steinbaugh Fr. P/IF Georgetown, Ill.
15 Jordan Brewer So. OF/P St. Joseph, Mo.
16 Tucker Greer So. OF/P Wilmore, Ky.
17 Jacob Gonzalez RS-Fr. OF/P St. Louis. Mo.
18 Jack Hendrix Fr. P Upper Arlington, Ohio
19 Jose Ramos So. C Cayey, P.R.
20 Nate Thomas So. P Brazil, Ind.
21 Edie Rodriguez So. P San Juan, P.R.
22 Jackson Niehaus So. P Vincennes, Ind.
23 Trevor Cukovecki Fr. UTL Kettering, Ohio
25 Christian Bault Fr. 1B Cincinnati, Ohio
26 Colin Kriminger RS-Fr. P Kingston Springs, Tenn.
27 Jacob Craig Fr. IF/P Terre Haute, Ind.
29 Joey Ivey So. P Nicholasville, Ky.
30 Ian Heffley RS-Fr. IF Kensington, Md.
31 Brady Bowling Fr. P Lexington, Ky.
32 Justin Snow Fr. OF Indianapolis, Ind.
33 Dalton Hendrix Fr. OF Marshall, Ill.
34 Dawsyn DeMott Fr. P Monrovia, Ind.
35 Brett Herndon RS-Fr. OF/P Terre Haute, Ind.
37 Brayden Burtch Fr P Robinson, Ill.
41 Zane Bechman RS-So. P Vincennes, Ind.
45 Hunter Brill Fr. P Haslet, Texas
Head coach: Kevin Bowers
Assistant coaches: Bob Boyll, Nate Glant
2018 Lincoln Trail College Statesmen Baseball Schedule
Date Opponent Time/result
2-9 at Flag City JUCO Classic, Millington, Tenn. cancelled
2-10 at Northwest Mississippi cancelled
2-17 at Georgia Highlands (DH) W 5-1, L 4-3
2-18 at Georgia Highlands L 5-2
2-23 vs. Cleary JV (DH) at Westfield, Ind. W 12-0, W 18-0
2-24 vs. Cleary JV (DH) at Westfield, Ind. cancelled
2-25 vs. Ivy Tech Northeast at Westfield, Ind. W 7-6, W 10-6
3-2 at Babe Howard Tournament, Millington, Tenn. cancelled