By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
The baseball preview for the Southeast Pirates’ 2023 season:
Head Coach: Mitchell Ray, 1st year.
Coaching Staff: Nick Dillon, Dan Miller, Ronnie Reed.
2022 Record: 8-10 overall; 4-6 Portage Trail Conference.
Returning Lettermen (7): Evan Riffle, sr.; Ian Carter, sr.; Nate Muncy, jr.; Kyle Booher, jr.; Logan West, jr.; Logan Lavigna, jr.; Caleb Miller, soph.
Lettermen Lost (6): Thomas Sharish, Jordan McKendrick, Carter Ault, Austin Ranker, Ray Grimes, Matt Donovan.
Team Captains: Nate Muncy, Evan Riffle, Ian Carter.
Underclassmen to Watch: Joe Sharish, fresh.; Caleb Martin, soph.; Caleb Miller, soph.
“We lost some big contributors from our lineup last season,” said head coach Mitchell Ray, who takes over for Lee Lovejoy, who is now coaching at Ravenna after three years with the Pirates.
“However, we still have some very important players returning to the field this year, not to mention some fresh faces that will put on the Pirates’ uniform for the first time. With a new team outlook and approach, we look for these young men to continue to work hard and prepare for a great spring season.
“I am very excited to watch them grow as individuals and get better as a team,” Ray added. “I am very proud to be coaching this team.”
Nate Muncy: .420 average, 21 hits, 14 RBI.
Ian Carter: .278 average, 15 hits, 13 runs, 12 RBI.
Evan Riffle: 11 hits, 12 RBI.
Junior Nate Muncy is solid all-around and will play first base. He is the top returning player in the lineup, top pitcher and also one of the best defensive players in the entire county.
Muncy had just one fielding error all last season, hit .420 and struck out only five times for an on-base percentage of .547 in a First Team All-Portage Trail Conference season.
“Nate is a leader on the field and in the dugout,” Ray said. “He is a huge asset both offensively and defensively.”
Senior Ian Carter “brings a lot of experience and talent coming into his final season,” Ray said.
Carter is a utility player that can do a little bit of everything and will play in the infield, as well as spend some time behind the plate catching.
Senior Evan Riffle is another all-around performer. He will be a top-end pitcher and also a dangerous hitter.
“Evan is a reliable player both in the dugout and on the field,” Ray said. “He will be a presence for us both at the plate and on the mound.”
Junior Logan West proved to be one of the best defensive players in the PTC last year.
“He will be an integral part of our middle infield this year and as a reliable option behind the plate,” Ray said.
Sophomores Caleb Miller and Caleb Martin, along with freshman Joe Sharish, provide depth and versatility to the Pirates’ infield.
“Caleb Miller has shown great improvement this off-season,” Ray said. “Caleb Martin is a new addition to the team this spring, and he can adapt to anywhere he is put and still make an impact. Joe is an incoming freshman with a lot of promising potential. He will see time at multiple positions.”
Junior Kyle Booher enters his third year as a two-year lettermen and provides experience to the outfield.
“Kyle has put in a lot of work this off-season to become a better hitter and it is showing in practice,” Ray said.
Juniors Logan Lavigna and Zach Balk will also be key players in the Pirates’ outfield, while also being a part of the team’s pitching staff.
“Logan has been putting in extra time, working to become a better hitter and it shows,” Ray said. “Zach is someone that is always willing to get better, and I know when his number is called, he will give everything he has to help out this team.”
Sophomores Kage Klatka and Caleb Martin will also play in the outfield this season.
“Their speed and arms will be an asset in the outfield,” Ray said.
The Pirates will use a committee at catcher this season, with Carter, West and Miller all sharing time.
“Each of them have the ability to be a trustworthy backstop for everyone on our pitching staff,” Ray said.
Muncy returns after a solid season in 2022, when he had a 3.79 earned-run average and 33 strikeouts.
“His skills and baseball IQ while on the mound is what leads to his great outings,” Ray said.
Riffle was the team’s go-to reliever last year, and he will continue in that role this season.
“He has a presence on the mound and the ability to close out a game if we need him to,” Ray said.
Carter was used in a limited basis last year, but Ray said he expects his innings to increase this year as a starter and reliever.
Lavigna pitched only a few varsity innings last year, but Ray liked what he saw.
“He only had one start, but we are looking for him to get more this season and expect him to develop into a quality pitcher for us this season,” Ray said.
Klatka, Martin and Sharish all will see time on the mound, as well.
“There is a lot of experience on this team, despite losing five seniors,” Ray said. “In addition to the experienced player we have, the new additions to our team add up to a positive outlook leading into this year. We have a team that has put in a lot of work this off-season and is looking to compete.”
“Last season, we struggled with getting runners on base and getting those runners across the plate,” Ray said. “We are working to improve the approach at the plate and get those runs in. Having a healthy lineup is going to be key as well, especially where depth is concerned.”
March 27: at Garfield
March 29: at Streetsboro
March 30: vs. Chaney
April 1: at Field
April 5: at Alliance
April 6: vs. Newcomerstown
April 10: at Lake Center Christian
April 11: vs. Lake Center Christian
April 14: at West Branch
April 15: vs. Coventry (DH)
April 17: vs. Mogadore
April 18: at Mogadsore
April 20: at Alliance
April 21: vs. Ravenna
April 24: vs. Warren JFK
April 25: at Warren JFK
April 27: vs. Manchester
April 28: vs. Berkshire
May 1: at Rootstown
May 2: vs. Rootstown
May 3: at Chaney
May 4: vs. Waterloo
May 8: vs. St. Thomas Aquinas
May 9: at St. Thomas Aquinas
May 11: at Springfield
May 12: at Waterloo