BY ED WRIGHT
April 18, 2010, 10:35 a.m.
Whatever this season's Plymouth Christian Academy baseball team is lacking in experience, the Eagles will more than make up for with effort and exuberance, said head coach Joe Bottorff, moments before the Eagles boarded the bus for the season-opening game last week.
"We're a lot younger and less-experienced than we've been the past couple of years, so they're trying harder, listening to all the instruction they're given and giving us a lot of effort," said Bottorff.
"Our strength will be our 2-3-4-5 hitters, who can all hit the ball out of the park. Each one is bigger than the next. I've told them I expect at least one run out of them every time we go through that part of the order."
The Eagles will be shifting from the Michigan Independent Athletic Conference's Blue Division to the Red Division this spring, Bottorff noted.
"We were in the Blue for a long time and usually finished between fourth and sixth place," he said. "But when they brought the new teams in from the Metro Conference this year, they re-aligned things and put us in the Red.
"Last year, we were 4-1 against teams in the Red Division, so, although it's hard to judge since we have so many new players, we should be competitive."
The MIAC is arguably the most-talented Division 4 league in the state as it has had a representative in the state championship game each of the past four years.
The Eagles are blessed with a strong trio of captains -- Ethan Walker, Matt Dodson and Jon Slater -- all of whom can play and lead.
"Ethan is a really cool kid," said Bottorff. "He transferred over here when Agape closed and has been a great addition to our team. He's real enthusiastic and he seems to be having a great time. He can play any position, so he gives us a lot of flexibility, and we know we're always going to get 100 percent out of him."
"Jon is just a ballplayer. He's a big strong pitcher who throws hard and he gets everything that comes his way at first base. He's a very good leader, too.
"Matt can hit like crazy and really run. He can really get around the bases in a hurry. He led our team in triples last season. When he's pitching, he is very focused, like Tiger Woods when he's putting."
Also earning starting nods for the Eagles will be senior David Baum, who will pitch, play third base and the outfield; senior Josh Johnston, the team's lead-off hitter and center fielder; junior Matt Hagelin, the team's primary second baseman; junior Austin Smith, who will patrol the outfield and play first when Slater pitches; and sophomore Daniel Slater, the Eagles' No. 1 catcher.
"David's breaking pitch is nasty and he has developed a knuckleball over the winter," Bottorff said of Baum. "He will bat in the six or seven spot and has good opposite-field power.
"Josh has great range in the outfield and is the team's best bunter. He's also a terror on the basepaths.
"Matt will be our primary second baseman, but he will also play some shortstop and outfield. He has sneaky power and has greatly improved his bunting.
"Austin has an explosive swing. He is primarily a first baseman, but we have converted him to outfield in order to get his bat in the line-up.
"Daniel is our primary catcher, but he will also play some second base and pitch in short relief. Catcher was a position of concern for us at the end of last season with the graduation of All-MIAC First-Team catcher Brent Zinn, so we started working with Daniel in the summer and he has made outstanding progress."
The final starting spot will be shared by freshman Matt Read and sophomore Nate Bortz. Providing much-needed depth are junior Blake Ringger, freshman Earl Carr, freshman Drew Cobb and freshman Trevor Gogola.
Ed Wright can be reached at (734) 453-1980 or firstname.lastname@example.org.