Prep baseball preview: Senior quartet expected to lead Middletown Christian

FRANKLIN — Middletown Christian School’s baseball team finished the 2018 season second in the Metro Buckeye Conference, but closer to third place than first.

The Eagles went 6-3 in the MBC regular season to finish 3 1/2 games behind 10-0 Dayton Christian and a half-game ahead of 6-4 Troy Christian. That was before losing in the first round of the Division IV tournament to Emmanuel Christian, a team Middletown Christian had beaten twice in the regular season, to finish 7-5 overall.

Two first-team all-conference selections and three second-team picks were lost to graduation from that team, leaving coach Ray Cox to count on four returning seniors — Aaron Cox, Steven Earnest, Jeremy Lindenschmidt and Josh Swartz — to pick up the slack.

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“The job of these four seniors will be to help fill the void left by graduation and to provide leadership to our new full-time varsity players transitioning from (junior varsity) to varsity,” Cox said. “They will also be asked to help fill the pitching rotation as we lost our top three pitchers from last season.”

Lindenschmidt has the most pitching experience among the Eagles’ seniors. He pitched in 10.1 innings over five games and was 1-1 with a 2.71 earned run average in 2018. Aaron Cox logged a 3.00 ERA in 4.2 innings in three games last season. Swartz and junior Grant Ford both carded two innings, Ford in one game and Swartz in two, and neither allowed an earned run.

Earnest is Middletown Christian’s top returning hitter after batting .378 in 11 games last season.

Cox is hoping that four varsity newcomers — juniors Seth Wolfenbarger and Clay Lovin, sophomore Charles Smith and freshman Leif Lykins — also can help plug the gaps left by the graduates.

“Right now the guys are working diligently to be the best prepared they can be for the upcoming season,” Ray Cox said. “They have had great attitudes and have seemed very willing to take on the challenge of replacing the five seniors lost to graduation last year.

“We will have more overall team speed this year. We do not have a lot of power in our lineup, so we will have to do our best to hit for average and try to make things happen on the bases with opportunistic base running.”

The Eagles are scheduled to open the season on the road against MVC foe Legacy Christian on March 26 at 5 p.m.

MCS isn’t scheduled to play Dayton Christian, a Division III district finalist last season, until April 23 at 5 p.m. at Dayton Christian, followed by a home game against the defending champion on April 25 at 5 p.m.

“Dayton Christian will be the favorite to return as conference champs,” Ray Cox said. “They went undefeated in conference play last year, posted a solid 19-7 overall record, and are returning several players from last season.”

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