By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
The baseball preview for the Rootstown Rovers’ 2023 season:
Head Coach: Keith Waesch, 11th year, 168-71 record.
Coaching Staff: Matt Collins, Matt Just, Jim Gerren, John Gerren.
2022 Record: 14-7 overall, 5-5 Portage Trail Conference.
Returning Lettermen (4): Carson Flowers, sr.; Austin Biggin, jr.; Tony Karp, jr.; Joe Weaver, jr.
Lettermen Lost (11): Mason Bartholomy, Donovan Birkett, Blake Bower, Isaac Di Tirro, Nathan Galambos, Jaggar Kokochak, Jason Moore, Brandan Nicholas, Justin Pratt, Jake Cultrona, Kadin Harless.
Underclassmen to Watch: Sean Boveington, soph.; Brady Kreitzburg, soph.; Blake Postlethwait, soph.; Logan Uphold, soph.; Alex Ely, fresh.; Bryce Harless, fresh.; Landon Rodstrom, fresh.; R.J. Soika, fresh.; Ethan White, fresh.
Austin Biggin: .354 average, 17 hits, 17 RBI, 14 runs scored, 12 walks, 35 pitching strikeouts, 23.2 innings pitched, 2.57 ERA.
Tony Karp: .328 average, 16 RBI, 3 pitching wins, 2.33 ERA.
Joe Weaver: 0.75 ERA.
“This is by far the youngest and most inexperienced varsity baseball team we have fielded in a long, long time, with only three starters returning,” head coach Keith Waesch said. “We are hoping to build confidence early in the season and build on that throughout the spring.”
Three new faces fill out the four infield positions for the Rovers.
At first base, junior Alec Sturgill and sophomore Logan Uphold have battled throughout the preseason to earn the starting role.
Rootstown’s only senior on the roster, Carson Flowers, will start at second base.
At shortstop, sophomore Sean Boveington and freshman Ethan White emerged as the frontrunners to start.
Junior Tony Karp is the starter at third base.
“Based on what we have seen in the early going, our infielders have adjusted to varsity baseball and will continue to get more comfortable with each game,” Waesch said.
Sophomore Blake Postlethwait will be the starter behind the plate for the Rovers.
“Blake has a lot of potential to continue what has been a long list of quality catchers at Rootstown,” Waesch said. “He has a strong arm, but justness reps and experience behind the plate.”
While the Rovers’ infield will introduce some new faces, the team’s outfield returns two of the three starters.
Juniors Austin Biggin and Joe Weaver return to play centerfield and left field, respectively.
Meanwhile, junior Lukas Skala and sophomore Brady Kreitzburg will work in right field.
“The outfield, based on having two returnees, will be the strength of the defense, especially early in the season,” Waesch sad.
Four players return that received varsity pitching innings last season in Biggin, Weaver, Karp and Kreitzburg.
“Austin started six games for us, while Joe, Tony and Brady saw limited time on the mound a year ago,” Waesch said. “We feel our pitchers can be successful despite not having a ton of varsity experience. The key for us will be to get ahead of hitters and stay away from the free passes.”
“We have a lot of young kids that have the talent to win varsity games,” Waesch said. “The question will be how quickly our young kids can adapt to varsity baseball. If that happens early in the season, we will be a very competitive ballclub.”
“We lost 11 lettermen off back-to-back district runner-up teams and have numerous positions to fill with inexperienced players. However, this group has been working extremely hard, and we are anxious to watch them develop this spring.”
March 27: vs. Ravenna
March 28: vs. Southington Chalker
March 30: at Chippewa
April 1: vs. Maplewood
April 4: vs. McDonald
April 6: at Springfield
April 8: vs. Crestwood (DH)
April 10: vs. St. Thomas Aquinas
April 11: at St. Thomas Aquinas
April 13: at Grand Valley
April 17: at Lake Center Christian
April 18: vs. Lake Center Christian
April 20: vs. Waterloo
April 21: vs. Cardinal
April 24: at Mogadore
April 28: vs. Ravenna
May 2: at Southeast
May 5: at Coventry
May 8: at Warren JFK
May 11: at Waterloo
May 12: at Holy Name