OXFORD — That sound coming out of Oxford is the Talawanda High School baseball team, thumping its chest ready to announce its arrival.
The Brave return 16 juniors and seniors this season, and first-year coach Matt Lykins said his squad is not only a challenger for the Southwest Ohio Conference title, but could make noise in the Division I postseason as well.
“No doubt we are a contender,” Lykins said. “With what we have coming back and knowing what the others teams have lost, then yes, we should compete for the league title.”
BASEBALL SEASON PREVIEWS
Talawanda finished 10-16 a year ago and is dealing with the tragedy of losing coach Tim Reed, who passed away from heart attack in January.
Lykins has been named interim head coach for the 2019 campaign. Talawanda athletic director Wes Cole said the plan is to open up the job after the season.
“Definitely big shoes to fill,” Lykins said. “This is Tim’s team and everybody knows it. We will do the best we can to honor his legacy. “
Lykins said the Brave played 10 sophomores on varsity last year and that experience is paying off. He said his squad has “looked fantastic.”
Junior Clayton Detherage and seniors Sam Stieby and Sam Morrish are listed as the top hurlers.
“We have a couple of studs,” Lykins said while noting he has several guys looking for moments on the mound. “We have some guys who can really bring it.”
Lykins said his middle infield rivals any team’s in Greater Cincinnati. Junior Josh Hartman will play second base, while junior Brecken Hornsby will handle the shortstop position.
Dylan Downard and Austin Rice, a pair of juniors, give the Brave a strength behind the plate, according to Lykins.
“We really don’t get into predictions, but where we have been to where we are now, we are optimistic,” Lykins said. “We talk about taking one swing, one pitch, one practice, one day at a time and see how we are at the end.”
Talawanda hasn’t had a winning record since 2013, but Lykins said his deep team will end that.
“Our biggest problem is getting them all in,” he said. “At every position we have someone who we can plug in in case of injuries. We have a lot of good players fighting for spots. That is a good problem to have.”
Seniors Trey Hubbard, Jake Michael, Tyler Prater and Luke Saurber, along with juniors Matthew Bowling, Mason Hansford, Ian Heiman and Klayton Smith, fill out the roster.
Talawanda opens the season March 23 at Sycamore, facing the host Aviators and Springfield.