Upon entering his 14th year as head coach of the New Franklin baseball team, Erich Gerding knows two things about his 2021 Bulldogs.
The first thing that comes to mind is that Gerding wants the Bulldogs to continue to make progress. Lastly, he wants the team to get better. “We want to work towards being able to compete-for-and win-conference and district titles and beyond,” Gerding said.
The Bulldogs were on the right path last fall by finishing 7-4 overall and 4-0 in the Central Activities Conference. In the spring, New Franklin finished 13-6 overall.
With 15 players suited out for the upcoming season, eight of which are returning starters and 11 of which are returning letterwinners, Gerding also knows the key to every season is solid pitch, great defense, quality at-bats, and smart and aggressive baserunning. “This fall, however, the goal is to take strides forward with our infield defense and get a new defensive lineup to gel together. With conference not being in the fall anymore, our goals are to continue to get better as individuals and as a team for the spring season. We want to see lots of guys in different spots in different situations, where we think they can have success.”
If the Bulldogs are going to have success this fall, Gerding said it will have to come from the teams balance-the distribution of kids from class to class. He said the pitching depth can be a strength if everyone stays health. “Offensively, I think our lineup can do some special things if we consistently maintain the right approach and make more of our outs productive,” Gerding said. “As for our weaknesses, I would say right now it might be our overall team depth. I would love to have more kids out here playing ball. Our infield defense let us down on more than one occasion last spring but we hope to turn that back into the strength that it was like last fall.”
With all but one starter returning from the spring season, the Bulldogs should have experience back at almost every position this season. However, that one player will be hard to replace as Tysen Dowell earned all-district honors at catcher while hitting No. 2 in the lineup.
Gerding will also have his pick up pitchers to throw out on the mound at any time this season. Of the 15 players suited out for the season, Gerding listed six who could see time on the mound. Returning this season for the Bulldogs that got the bulk of innings in the spring are senior Caleb Hull, junior Clayton Wilmsmeyer and sophomore Tanner Bishop. Hull pitched the bulk of the innings for New Franklin in the spring with 51 1/3 innings and finished 5-4 with 53 strikeouts for an ERA of 1.90. Wilmsmeyer pitched 36 1/3 innings and struck out 63 batters for an ERA of .578, while Bishop threw 18 1/3 innings and finished 3-0 with 30 strikeouts for an ERA of 1.52.
Other players that saw innings on the mound in the spring are Jake Marshall, Keaton Eads and Connor Wilmsmeyer. Marshall pitched 5 1/3 innings, while Eads and Wilmsmeyer each pitched one inning.
The infield will also return with experience with Connor Wilmsmeyer and newcomer Drew Rhorer at catcher. Gerding said Wilmsmeyer was the DH most of last spring and had a lot of big hits for the team. “Connor has a lot of potential and natural pop,” Gerding said. “Once his approach matures and becomes more consistent, he will be an all-district type player, maybe more. He plays an excellent first base and is progressing as a catcher, a position he will have to see more time at this fall. As for Drew, he transferred to us this fall from Boonville. Drew is someone who has played a lot of ball and knows a lot about how to play the game.”
On the infield, senior Sam Marshall returns at first base. While hitting .227 in the spring, Gerding said Marshall is one of the hardest, grittiest workers on the team and is a vocal leader of the team. “He plays a solid first base for us and we are looking forward to more offensive production from him this year,” Gerding said.
Junior Keaton Eads returns at second base after hitting .356 in the spring with 21 hits in 59 at bats with 19 singles, 17 RBIs and 20 runs scored. Gerding said Eads is one of those players who is arguably an all-conference, all-district type player who has just not been able to quite break through and get the recognition he deserves. “Keaton has hit at the top of our order since his freshman year,” Gerding said. “His glove and versatility are key components of our team success.”
Sophomore Sawyer Felten will get a hard look at second, Gerding said.
As for the left side of the infield, Clayton Wilmsmeyer returns at shortstop after earning second team all-district in the spring. Wilmsmeyer hit .350 in the spring with 21 hits in 60 at bats with 17 RBIs and 14 runs scored. Gerding said he looks for Wilmsmeyer to hopefully continue this trend of upward production and be one of the main leaders on our team.
In addition to Wilmsmeyer, Gerding said Eads could also see some playing time at short.
Bishop also returns at third base this season to give the Bulldogs one of the best corner players in the CAC if not the area. Bishop hit .391 in the spring with 25 hits in 64 at bats with eight doubles, 25 RBIs and 20 runs scored. Bishop also earned second team all-district in the spring while hitting in the three hole every game. Gerding said Bishop’s knack for drive in runs is uncanny. “Tanner obviously did a great job for us and hopefully his arm will feel better this fall,” Gerding said. “We’re also looking at sophomore Kadin Sanders at third. He is another hard worker and very humble.”
In the outfield, Jake Marshall returns in center field after hitting .382 with 21 hits in 55 at bats with seven doubles, 12 RBIs and 28 runs scored. Gerding said Marshall, a second team all-district player, made huge strides last fall and took a hold of the leadoff spot after some injuries this past spring. “Jake is super competitive and plays to win,” Gerding said.
Other players that will give the Bulldogs experience in the outfield this fall are senior Zaccary Vollrath-Roth, junior Owen Armentrout and freshmen Maddox Thornton, Brandon Phillips and Rylan Hundley.
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