Sacred Heart has put together a string of 10 consecutive state-tournament appearances, but getting an 11th could prove to be a challenge for the Rebels in 2013.
They finished 8-12 overall last year, but second in the conference race and district tournament, and fourth in the regional to qualify for the Class 1A State Tournament. There, they lost to Taylor, the host team, in the opening round, 6-2.
But there are holes to fill if the Rebels are to continue their state-tournament streak.
“We must find some offense,” Sacred Heart coach Aaron Duvall said. “We lost six starters.”
The defense, however, is expected to be a strength, and the Rebels do return a pair of pitchers in sophomore Joe Beck and senior Austin Andrews.
The Rebels compete in the 1A-5 North Conference against Academics Plus, Guy-Perkins, Mount Vernon-Enola, Nemo Vista and Wonderview. The four survivors from the district tournament will move on to the 1A Region 3 Tournament against the best from the 1A-2 South (Bradford, Concord, Midland, Rural Special, Shirley, South Side Bee Branch and West Side Greers Ferry). The four survivors of the regional will then advance to the Class 1A State Tournament.
Best hitter for average: Shortstop Adam Hoyt hit just .269 as a junior last year, but Duvall said the senior is a good line-drive hitter who finds the gaps well.
Best power hitter: Senior left fielder Hamp Maus hit just one home run last year, but the coach said he is big and strong. “The ball really jumps off his bat,” Duvall said.
Best speed: The Rebels have a good bit of speed, with Duvall mentioning senior second baseman Adam Gottsponer, junior first baseman Alex Fresneda and sophomore center fielder Hunter Andrews as the team’s best. “All of these are extremely quick and are aggressive on the bases,” he said.
Best fieldeR: Duvall is counting on Maus to continue the defensive prowess he showed as a junior. He had 5 outfield assists last year and made just 1 error in 20 games.
Best arm: Although just a sophomore, Beck is the returning ace of the staff. He was 4-3 as a freshman with a 2.43 ERA. Beck also plays third base. Andrews was 1-1 last year with a 4.29 ERA.
Overall, Duvall knows the task awaiting him and the Rebels.
“We move into a very tough region, and we must replace six starters who graduated,” he said. “We do have a solid defense and return two quality arms, but we must find a way to generate offense.
“There is talent, but experience at the high school level is lacking.”
The Rebels were scheduled to open the season March 8-9 in the West Side Greers Ferry tournament.