Carlisle’s Caleb Stewart tags stretches to get Madison’s Jake Edwards out at first base during their game April 26, 2018, at Madison. The host Mohawks won 3-1. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Prep baseball preview: Four key returnees will be Carlisle’s leaders

CARLISLE — Carlisle High School baseball coach Chris Hawkins laughed when asked how his squad was looking so far this spring.

“I really don’t know,” Hawkins said. “We have only been outside three days. I will know more in a couple of weeks. We just need time to get outside and see what we have.”

Due to construction of the new high school at Carlisle, the Indians have lost access to any available space outside, so Hawkins is pointing to the Indians’ annual trip to Fort Walton Beach, Fla., in a couple of weeks.

PREP BASEBALL SEASON PREVIEWS

» Cincinnati Christian Cougars

» Edgewood Cougars

» Fairfield Indians

» Hamilton Big Blue

» Lakota East Thunderhawks

» Lakota West Firebirds

» Lebanon Warriors

» Madison Mohawks

» Middletown Middies

» Talawanda Brave

Hawkins said the Indians will play five games and have their lineup solidified when they return.

“We go down there every year with questions and come back with answers,” Hawkins said. “We find out who we are down there. It is a nice team bonding event. All the players, parents, coaches get to play, away from the stress of the hometown guys on the fence, and and enjoy a vacation between games.”

The Indians return eight seniors led by No. 1 pitcher Caleb Stewart. Stewart won six games a year ago, and Hawkins said he will once again shoulder the load.

Fellow senior A.J. Keeton went 2-2 last year while hitting .409 with 22 RBIs, and when he isn’t pitching, he will play first base.

Behind the plate the Indians have three-year starter Dane Flatter. The senior hit .361 with 19 RBIs and 13 stolen bases last year.

Rounding out a core of four for Carlisle is senior J.J. Roberts, who will play center field.

“Outside of those four, we have all question marks,” Hawkins said. “We started three freshmen last year and could start three more freshmen this year. It is hard to predict what we will have until we actually start playing.”

Hawkins said he is looking for big things from sophomore Sam Rawlins, a left-hander who will help on the mound and in the field.

The Indians went 16-12 a year ago, finishing third in the always rugged Southwestern Buckeye League Buckeye Division. The third-place showing broke a string of five straight second-place finishes.

“Yeah, we have been in second place the last few years,” Hawkins said. “The trick is being consistent home and away, and with young kids, it is always hard to be consistent. They are high school kids, so consistency isn’t something easy to do.”

While the team jells, Hawkins said he will lean on Stewart and Keeton.

“Those two have thrown the ball really well, and we need them to do it again,” Hawkins said. “Those two along with (Roberts) and (Flatter) have been through the battles and will lead us, especially early.”

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