MOUNT VERNON — In Mount Vernon, baseball fans are used to winning.
However, despite falling short in his Yellow Jackets’ bid to claim another Ohio Capital Conference title, second-year head baseball coach Matt Smith doesn’t feel pressure to win.
Smith believes his roster is perfectly suited for his “get ’em on, get ’em over, get ’em in” offensive philosophy. The loss of Ben Hoar to graduation means a loss in power at the plate. However, other top bats are back, including SS Riley Swanson. The future Mount Vernon Nazarene University baseball player led the Jackets in virtually every offensive category last season, including batting average (.489).
“You can’t ask for a better student (4.0 GPA) and a better person than Riley,” said Smith. “He’s a leader, and he’s a fierce competitor. He sets the tone for us. There’s no two ways about that.”
The presence of Shawn Maxwell, Nate Shuman and Billy Jackson means the Yellow Jackets return an infield that started most of last season.
“(Maxwell) is a great defensive first baseman, and he’s worked hard in the offseason to improve his offense,” said Smith. “(Shuman) is not flashy, but gets the job done. (Jackson) is, pound for pound, one of our strongest players.”
Catcher Ryan Goetzman returns behind the plate as well. Goetzman’s offense (.342 BA) has never been in question, as he was able to get on base as needed in 2011. The big difference this year is that he has been working on defense.
The outfield lacks experience but not depth. Kory Shackle returns for his senior season at center field. The rest of the outfield is still being determined; however, Smith said there are a number of players with varsity and jayvee experience up for the roles, including Jake Frazier, Duke Cunningham and Steven Shannon.