FAIRFIELD TWP. — It has been a long year for the Cincinnati Christian School baseball team.
The Cougars lost in heartbreaking fashion 8-7 a year ago to Fort Loramie in a Division IV regional final, but CCS coach Curtus Moak has a warning for opposing teams.
“We actually got better,” Moak said. “We are a year older. We return eight starters and add some really good freshmen. Our guys left the field after that loss saying we were going to come back and win it this year.”
PREP BASEBALL SEASON PREVIEWS
CCS went 16-8 last season, won the Miami Valley Conference Gray Division and lost one starter.
“The recipe is in place to make more history, but you have to stay healthy and execute,” Moak said.
While the Cougars only have 13 players on their roster, one of them is senior starting pitcher Mitchell Smith, who is the reigning league player of the year.
Smith, 10-1 with a 1.93 earned run average a year ago, will be the ace and also see time at second base and shortstop.
“He can throw, no doubt,” Moak said. “He can throw all three pitches for strikes and we are adding a fourth pitch, a slider. All championship teams need leaders, and (Smith) is our guy.”
CCS also returns its No. 2 pitcher, junior Alex Johnson, who won one game with a 1.71 ERA last season. Junior Winston Spencer sat out all of the regular season last year but came back for the playoffs, and Moak said he will eat up some innings. Sophomore Tim Carangi will also get some starts.
Sophomore Alex Bertram won four games last year, but will be unable to pitch this season due to a torn labrum.
“We are not a powerful offensive team,” Moak said. “We are not going to hit a ton of home runs, so we will have to use our speed and manufacture runs. Our pitching and our defense will be a strength.”
Versatility is a big key for the Cougars. With only 13 players, CCS needs to avoid injuries and have players who can man multiple positions. With the grind of a long season in mind, Moak even cut back on the number of games.
“You can schedule 28, but we only play 23,” Moak said. “With only 13, you have to watch possible dead arm with your pitchers. Especially when a majority of your pitchers play field positions.”
One area Moak doesn’t worry about is catcher. Sophomore Cody Anderson returns as the starter and freshman Kaden Glenn will be his backup.
“It is too early for us to lock down who will be where defensively,” Moak said. “We are blessed with a bunch of guys who can play outfield and infield. We are a like a Little League team in that aspect.”
In terms of league play, CCS will compete with Seven Hills for the Gray Division title, and Moak said the crossover games with the Scarlet Division will be key.
Moak said the Cougars being young last year actually helped, especially in what he called “David vs Goliath” regional matchups.
“It actually played to our advantage because the guys just didn’t know what to expect,” Moak said. “We are a year older, return a bunch and added good freshmen who will contribute. With that combo, we are due to have success again.”
Senior Jacob Carroll, junior Ben Ferguson, and sophomores Bryce Jungkunz, Connor Ploetz and Doug Bayes fill out the roster.
The Cougars open the season with a doubleheader against the Landmark Eagles on March 23 at the West Chester Baseball Complex.