NEW MIAMI — Donald Howard plans to put a hard-charging New Miami High School baseball team on the field this spring.
Howard, who prefers to go by his nickname “Peanut,” has been elevated from varsity assistant to head coach this season after the Vikings went 10-16 last year under Zach Blyberg.
“I’m not going to predict anything. You don’t want to ruffle feathers with the baseball gods,” Howard said. “These kids are aggressive and have a lot of heart. They don’t ever die. If we’re getting beat, they still play like they’re up two or three runs. The senior leadership is picking up the inexperienced players and trying to teach them.”
This is his first head coaching job. Howard had been around the New Miami program for well over a decade before officially becoming an assistant last season.
“I’m thrilled and excited for the kids,” said Howard, a 1988 Preble Shawnee graduate. “I’ve been around baseball for a long time. I also umpire, so I know the ins and outs of the game. The little things are going to win us ballgames.”
The Vikings have quite a bit of experience returning this year, and senior first baseman Ronnie Bowman leads the way. He hit .506 with 16 RBIs and 24 stolen bases as a junior.
Among the experienced returnees are senior catcher-outfielder Robbie Hundley, sophomore shortstop-catcher Trey Robinette, sophomore second baseman-outfielder Donovan Howard, junior outfielder Danny Spivey and senior shortstop-third baseman Jaden Phillips. Hundley hit .297 and Robinette .274 last spring.
Spivey will be the primary center fieder, and senior Gage Retherford is in the mix at third base and behind the plate. Competing for outfield jobs are senior Bruce Montgomery, junior Caleb Frost and sophomore Louie Santiago.
Donald Howard said Bowman and Hundley have the most pop in their bats.
“Staying healthy is the big thing,” Howard said. “We’re going to be aggressive. We’re going to try to put the ball in the gaps and do hit-and-runs. We have to because I don’t see us as a power-hitting team. Our team speed is average, but we’re going to try to take extra bases whenever we can.”
Phillips looks to be the mound ace after throwing 39 innings last season, and Spivey, Hundley and Robinette will do plenty of pitching as well. Howard said he’s got two lefties he can turn to — junior Johnny Curtis and freshman Tug Jones.
“I’ve got to develop a lot of young pitchers to compete in the (Miami Valley Conference) the next few years,” Howard said. “It doesn’t matter how hard you throw unless you can hit your spots. If you’re not going to hit your spots, you’re not going to do well. We want to throw strikes and rely on our defense.”
New Miami plays in the MVC Scarlet Division and was last in the Scarlet in 2018 after winning three straight Gray Division titles.
The Vikings will kick off the season at home Saturday, facing Deer Park at 1 p.m.