HSE Baseball Preview — Mark Morrow
Success breeds success.
Hamilton Southeastern, under coach Scott Henson, has won two sectionals in the past four seasons, and the Royals were sectional runners-up to eventual state champion Noblesville in 2014.
HSE has 14 Sectional titles, joining Noblesville with the most among Hamilton County schools; 4 Regional titles, and 16 Conference titles for the Royals.
A winning tradition…..Yep, that ’s Royals Baseball!
Will a third sectional title come in Henson’s fifth season leading the Royals?
Well, 2017 should be a very good season once again. Despite losing 8 of the top 9 hitters to graduation, there are still many pieces back, led by a strong junior class and some exceptional pitching.
“We have pitching and strong defense up the middle. We’ll have to see how everyone else fits in and who can step up to supply more of the offense this season,’’ Henson said.
The junior class, which numbers 14, is extremely big and deep; and only 6 seniors are on the roster, compared to 11 last season.
March 29 — Brebeuf Jesuit (season opener), 5:30 p.m.
March 31 — Avon (1st HCC contest), 3 p.m.
April 4-8 — at Super Prep Series, Louisville, Ky.
April 10 — Carmel, 5:30 p.m.
April 13 — Fishers HS, 6 p.m.
April 14 — At Fishers HS, 6 p.m.
April 15 — Fishers HS, 11 a.m.
May 24-29 — IHSAA Sectional at Westfield
The Royals are ranked No. 4 in the preseason coaches’ association poll. Fishers HS, which has never won a sectional, was No. 2 behind Carmel.
The powerful Hoosier Crossroads Conference, arguably the best baseball conference in the state, actually has 5-of-7 schools ranked in the top 11 going into the 2017 season. Zionsville follows at No. 8, Noblesville No. 9 and Avon No. 11.
“After losing 11 seniors from a team that was ranked No. 1 preseason, this year’s team will be looking for guys that are hungry to carry the torch for this proud program. Four left-hand arms are part of a pitching staff that features several next level pitchers,’’ Henson said.
“It is expected that this year’s team will be strong on the mound and will be able to be a lot faster on the base paths. At Hamilton Southeastern, excellence is expected and challenging for championships is expected. As always, the Royals will look to be playing their best baseball come tournament time.”
The 3-game Southeastern-FHS series, which will be played April 13-15 (Games 1 and 3 at HSE), could have a major impact on the Hoosier Crossroads Conference championship. The Mudsock Trophy for baseball goes to the winner of the best-of-3 in the series.
“It’s a great conference with many outstanding players and tremendous pitching,’’ Henson said. “Last year, there were 17 Div. I pitchers in our conference.’’
The Royals return three standouts from a year ago with legit NCAA Div. 1 arms:
* — Junior left-hander Carter Lohman (3-1, struck out 27 in 37 innings as a sophomore) is a Div. I commit to Louisville who throws in the low 90s and could be the dominant pitcher in the HCC this season.
* — Senior LHP Owen Callaghan (5-1, 1.29 ERA), who has committed to IU-Kokomo (NAIA), but has a Div. I arm, according to Henson.
* — Junior RHP Sam Bachman, a 2016 Futures Game member whose fastball sits between 88-92.
* — Senior RHP Dalton Hutchinson, who’s in the low 80s, but throws a lot of off speed, can catch hitters off guard, and he should provide depth.
* — Senior LHP Grayson Riekhof, who will attend Franklin University (NCAA Div. III), had some arm problems last year, but he has been looking good this spring.
“In a 3-game series, having Lohman and Callaghan in two of those, I’d feel pretty good with them on the mound….And I’d like our chances,’’ Henson said.
Henson also is high on a pair of other Div. I talent in senior infielder Jack Lang, a IPFW commit, and centerfielder Brock Burns, who has committed to play football at Div. I Ball State.
Burns is quite an all-around athlete. He’s a hard-nosed youngster who was a three-sport athlete until electing not to play basketball this past winter. He also could provide some power at the plate.
Another strong and fast outfielder in junior Jackson Sweeney, who led the football team in rushing last fall, was injured in football and is recovering from a shoulder injury and will miss this season.
Junior Jacob Daftari is expected to be a fixture in the infield or outfield.
Senior Trenton Schneider will be behind the plate, and he’s expected to add to the team’s strength up the middle.
This should be a fun team to watch!
*—Mark Morrow, who has resided in Fishers since 1989, formerly owned Hamilton County Sports Daily. He was inducted into the Indiana Sportswriters-Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame in 2015. He now blogs for hseroyalsathletics.com(.)