By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
The high school baseball preview for the Field Falcons’ 2023 season:
Head Coach: Joe Peterson, 11 years, 172-84 career record.
Coaching Staff: Keith Bowers, Tim Contant, Matt Furino, Dru Pifel, Darren Shackleford, Bill Noveske, Josh Boarman, Evan Tutak, Levi Lowden.
2022 Record: 21-7 overall record; 11-3 Metro Athletic Conference.
Returning Lettermen (6): Braxton Baumberger, sr.; Garit Greene, sr.; Caleb Gartner, sr.; Gavin Greene, sr.; Kayden Smith, jr.; Drexal McAmis, soph.
Lettermen Lost (7): Griffin Ailes, Xander Rorrer, Sam Fields, Jimmy Cultrona, Logan Gilbert, Dan Nienhius, Hayden Tronge.
Team Captains: Garit Greene, Gavin Greene, Braxton Baumberger, Caleb Gartner.
Underclassmen to Watch: Grady Eader, soph.; Landon Homan, soph.; Caden Kolesar, fresh.
“We lost some key contributors from last year’s 21-win squad,” veteran head coach Joe Peterson said. “On the other hand, we return several all-conference players, along with two quality arms at the top of our rotation.
“Figuring out the rest of our pitching staff — and seeing who will step up into those holes left by graduation — will be key.”
The Falcons’ offense will feature many of the same names that help drive in runs a year ago, but there are still some lineup battles currently going on.
“We have a good group of young talent that we are extremely excited about,” Peterson added. “We are excited and anxious to get started.”
Third Base — Three-year varsity starter Braxton Baumberger returns to the hot corner, while he will also help at the top of the pitching rotation.
Baumberger’s numbers from last year include a .410 average, 20 RBI, 34 hits, 30 runs scored, 17 stolen bases and just one strikeout. On the mound, the right-hander was 5-0 in 36 innings of work and struck out 53 against 13 walks.
Baumberger was First Team All-MAC and Second Team All-District.
“Braxton possesses a very strong arm, good glove and is an excellent athlete,” Peterson said. “He will also hit at the top of our lineup again this season.”
When Baumberger is on the mound, the Falcons will need to find a utility infielder to man third base, which Peterson said the team is still trying to identify. The two currently leading for the chance are senior Lundon Robinson and junior Carter Little.
First Base — When he is not pitching at the top of the Falcons’ rotation, lefty Caleb Gartner will play first base.
Offensively last year, Gartner hit for a .328 average, drove in 16, scored 17 runs. While pitching, he was 5-1 during 35.1 innings, and he struck out 57, walked only eight and had a 1.34 ERA.
Gartner was First Team All-MAC.
“Caleb has good hands and plays a very good first base for us,” Peterson said.
When Gartner goes to the mound, Drexal McAmis and Kayden Smith will step in.
Middle Infield — Two talented sophomores are looking to step into starting roles at shortstop and second base.
Sophomore shortstop Grady Eader and sophomore second baseman Logan Lonzrick.
“Grady has tremendous hands and is a very good athlete,” Peterson said. “Logan is looking to lock down second base after being some varsity time last year.”
Robinson, along with junior Gavin Clapp will also compete for time at the middle-infield positions.
Catcher — Junior Carter Little and junior Ethan Rinhart are both battling for the starting role.
“With a couple of weeks left in the preseason, we are still in a back-and-forth battle,” Peterson said.
Centerfield — Three-year starter Garit Greene is the anchor and returns after a First Team All-MAC season a year ago.
In 2022, Greene hit for a .389 average, had 37 hits, 19 RBI, scored 37 runs and had 17 stolen bases.
“Garit has a ton of speed out there and has the ability to run down a lot of would-be hits,” Peterson said. “He will hit leadoff against for us this year.”
Right Field — Garit’s twin brother Gavin Greene, along with junior Kayden Smith, will see time in right field.
“Gavin really put in the time in the weight room this off-season and is looking for a strong senior season,” Peterson said.
Smith hit. 300 last year and had 23 hits, 17 runs and 24 RBI to earn Honorable Mention All-MAC honors.
“Kayden mostly hit in the three-spot last season and will more than likely be there again for us,” Peterson said.
Left Field — McAmis, a sophomore, returns after starting as a freshman last year.
He finished 2022 with a .313 average and had 20 hits and 19 RBI.
“He had some good success last year. He will be asked to move up into the middle of our lineup this year,” Peterson said.
Freshman Caden Kolesar, a lefty, is really “making a push for some time,” according to Peterson.
Junior Andrew Lillich is also competing for time.
Two top-level arms highlight the Falcons’ pitching staff: Baumberger and Gartner.
“These two guys are really like 1a and 1b,” Peterson said. “They are both looking for another strong season on the mound.
“Braxton is a ferocious competitor,” Peterson added.
The senior right-hander sits around 80-82 on his fastball and brings a diving curveball.
Gartner, a left-hander, is a true three-pitch master with his fastball and curveball, and his incredible changeup.
“After Braxton and Caleb is where we need to see who is going to step up and log some very important innings for us,” Peterson said.
Smith has the potential to be one of those guys.
“He will be a reliever and starter for us,” Peterson said.
McAmis, along with junior Megan Yutzy, sophomore Landon Homan, Little and Kolesar all are expected to earn an opportunity on the mound this season.
“We do return three First Team All-League guys, with two of them going to lead our pitching staff and hit in the top of our lineup,” Peterson said. “We also return several other key guys that played well last year. In addition, we are really excited about some really good looking younger guys up on the varsity full time. Hopefully, we can figure out our back-end pitching sooner rather than later, which will be a big key for us.”
“The league will be very tough this year. Norton, Cloverleaf and Woodridge return most of its rosters, with some really good players, while Streetsboro is adding to its young talent with more young talent,” Peterson said. “Coventry returns some good players as well. For us, figuring out our back-end pitching, along with which lineups work best, could be challenging for us.”
March 25: at Crestwood
March 27: vs. Boardman
March 30: at Springfield
April 1: vs. Southeast
April 3: vs. Woodridge
April 4: at Woodridge
April 6: at Struthers
April 8: vs. Firestone
April 10: vs. Cloverleaf
April 11: at Cloverleaf
April 14: vs. Mogadore
April 15: vs. Northwest
April 17: vs. Streetsboro
April 18: at Streetsboro
April 20: vs. Springfield
April 24: vs. Norton
April 25: at Norton
April 29: vs. Revere
May 1: vs. Ravenna
May 2: at Ravenna
May 4: at Ellet
May 8: at Coventry
May 10: vs. Coventry
May 11: at Canton Central Catholic
May 13: vs. West Branch
May 19: at Kent Roosevelt
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