Lakota East coach Ray Hamilton instructs his players between innings of a game against Middletown on April 20, 2016. Host East won 6-4. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Prep baseball preview: Experienced Lakota East has high hopes for 2019

LIBERTY TWP. — Lakota East High School’s baseball team challenged eventual Division I regional champion Mason for the Greater Miami Conference championship last season.

The Thunderhawks finished second in the GMC with a 14-4 record and hung on the Comets one of their two conference losses. East coach Ray Hamilton believes his team is positioned to make another strong run at a championship the Thunderhawks last won in 2011.

“The baseball staff is very excited about the 2019 season that is fast approaching,” Hamilton declared in the team’s 2019 preview, which he shared with the Journal-News. “This year’s team has seven returning position-player starters from the 2018 team.”

PREP BASEBALL SEASON PREVIEWS

» Cincinnati Christian Cougars

» Edgewood Cougars

» Hamilton Big Blue

» Lakota West Firebirds

» Madison Mohawks

» Middletown Middies

» Talawanda Brave

Perhaps the most accomplished of the returning players is junior pitcher Nathan Haberthier, an Ohio State commit who was named first-team all-conference last season after going 5-1 with a 1.85 earned run average and finished tied for third among GMC pitchers in wins and fourth by himself with 47 strikeouts.

Joining Haberthier on the staff are seniors Casey Berglund, Grayson Hamilton (an Ohio Dominican commit), Jake Fisher and Devon Milburn, and sophomores Trey Faglie, Cole Talarek and Andrew Bachman.

“Pitching is always the key to the success of any season and we have a great deal of talent at that position,” said Ray Hamilton, who’s approaching his 30th season as a coach, his 19th at East, and logged his 500th career win last season. “They give the 2019 team a great deal of depth and talent to compete in a league as talented as the GMC.”

The Thunderhawks are just as experienced at the other positions. Seven starters return, led by three second-team all-conference picks — Garrison Hamilton, a senior outfielder who’s also an Ohio Dominican commit, senior infielder Will Koger and junior infielder-designated hitter Mitchell Vincent.

Outfielders Grayson Hamilton, Christian Bodden and infielders Sean Church and Milburn also are returning starters. Koger ranked fifth in the GMC with 25 RBIs last season. Berglund played in seven games last season.

“The Thunderhawks have a very talented returning core group that are very good defensively,” Ray Hamilton said. “The offensive and defensive projections are just as encouraging with the returning starters and Casey Berglund and the addition of very talented players such as Cole Adams, Preston Dorsey, Andrew Gooding and Dylan Risola. In the outfield we return Grayson Hamilton, Garrison Hamilton, Christian Bodden and added Stone Shields, Ethan Crawford and Max Mikkelson.

“The Thunderhawks return Kyle McDonough and Michael Sprockett to give depth and talent at the catching position.”

McDonough and Sprockett have the biggest shoes to fill. They take over for Dan Sewak, named the 2018 GMC Athlete of the Year after leading the conference with a .459 batting average and 35 RBIs. Also departed are all-GMC second-team pitcher Aiden Talarek, who was 5-2 with a 2.03 ERA, and pitcher Max Vogelsang, who posted a 0.00 ERA in 11 games. The next-highest number of games with a 0.00 ERA among the Thunderhawks was four.

East is scheduled to open the season at home against Stebbins on March 23 at 1 p.m. The Thunderhawks are due to open GMC play at Middletown on March 25 at 5 p.m. Mason pops up on the schedule on April 12 and 15.

“Every season and team is different, and we are very excited about the talent and depth on this team,” Ray Hamilton said. “They are a very close group and have very good leadership. We are looking forward to all the challenges that the GMC provides and playing some great baseball this spring.”

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