Lakota West pitcher Max Kiker (3) deals to the plate during a Division I regional final against St. Xavier at the University of Cincinnati’s Marge Schott Stadium on May 26, 2017. GREG LYNCH/STAFF

Prep baseball preview: Veteran mound duo leading Lakota West under new coach

WEST CHESTER TWP. — As the season gets closer, the smile on Lakota West High School baseball coach Brad Gschwind’s face gets broader.

Gschwind can’t wait to get his inaugural season with the Firebirds under way, hoping to match the same success as head coach that he did as a player.

Gschwind played for Bill Dreisbach, winning a state title in 2007, and has returned home after four years being an assistant coach at Northern Kentucky University to coach his hometown team.

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“This program means so much to me,” Gschwind said. “To play here and now come back to coach means a lot to me. I am excited and can’t wait to get going.”

Gschwind replaces Greg Leurck, who is now at La Salle, and while the new coach is excited, the team he’s inheriting will be green after graduating nine seniors, including All-Greater Miami Conference catcher Keegan Fish, who was drafted and signed by the Florida Marlins.

“We have some good seniors back and we have some kids who had a lot of success at the JV and freshman level, so we have some talent,” Gschwind said. “I am excited to see how the kids mesh with our older kids and grow during the season.”

One thing West has is experience on the mound. Senior Max Kiker (5-2, 3.30 ERA) and junior Alex Jarboe (5-1, 1.85) will lead the way for the young team.

“Those two have had great success and they will lead us,” Gschwind said of the duo, which made the GMC second team last season. “I think we can pitch it and play defense.”

Senior Brandon Smith is a solid hitter who mans first base, while Gschwind said expect big things from senior Matt Brankamp, who will replace Fish behind the plate.

Junior Kurt Riesenberg and sophomores Jacob Beall and Grant Miller are expected to see heavy innings on the field. They will play both outfield and infield for West.

Gschwind said he doesn’t talk much about last year’s team, which finished 16-11 overall and 11-7 in the GMC.

“Listen, I think we can pitch it, I think we can run, and I think we can play defense,” Gschwind said. “If we can get all three of those going at the same time, we have a good chance for success. We have a great group that works hard and they compete against each other, pushing each other. I am really looking forward to seeing how they progress.”

West finished fourth in the GMC a year ago, and Gschwind said he hasn’t focused on opposing teams.

“I don’t know a lot about the other league teams,” he said. “What I do know is this is a great baseball conference with a lot of great baseball teams, and I am excited to see how our kids compete each day.”

West opens play at 1 p.m. on March 23 at Anderson.

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