Sidelines: Once the Warren baseball team gets rolling, look out

VINCENT – Last season the Warren Warriors put together a magical run at the end of the season as they went onto claim a Division II district baseball championship.

Before this season many expected the Warriors to pick up right where they left off as they lost just three starters to graduation.

Things did not get off to a great start however for new head coach Kevin Welsh and his Warriors as they found out that their field would not be ready to play on in the early part of the season, forcing them to play all their games on either neutral sites or opponents’ diamonds.

When they were able to find a dry field to play on the Warriors got off to a very slow start as they dropped three of their first four games to open the season.

Despite all the early season adversity, one would be quite premature to right the Big Blue season off already as they have a very talented team as evidenced by Saturday’s double-header sweep over a very much improved Marietta team.

The Warriors have all the ingredients of a great baseball team including strong starting pitching, excellent defense up the middle, and a strong lineup capable of putting quite a few runs on the scoreboard.

“We are starting to get to where we need to be,” said Welsh, whose team opened the season with three straight losses. “We haven’t been able to be on the field very much so we are just now kind of catching up.”

Welsh got a pair of strong pitching performances from right hander Blake Kidder and southpaw Justin Hill in the Marietta twin bill and the Warrior skipper feels he has plenty of quality and depth to make a strong run as the season wears on.

“We are very fortunate that we have four pretty good starting pitchers and three or four good arms that can come in and relieve anytime we need them to,” said Welsh. “We haven’t played a lot of games in a row yet so our arms are kind of fresh and that will be a big advantage later on.”

Another big advantage that the Warriors have is the fact that they have no less than 10 seniors on their roster, most of whom saw extended playing time in last year’s play-off run.

Among those seniors are catcher Gunnar Smith, shortstop Ethan Estes, and center fielder Lance Schafer, arguably one of the best up-the-middle trios in the area.

Last season Smith batted .356 while driving in 21 runs, many of them being Estes who swung the stick at a .357 clip.

Schafer was a first team All-SEOAL selection in 2013 as he batted .397 and stroked eight doubles.

Joining Kidder and Hill on the mound are the likes of Garrett Kennedy, David Ryan and Jacob Wagner.

Youngster’s Trace Schafer (3B) and Joel Estes (2B) are already strong defensive players who should only get better with the stick and seniors Jake Powell and Jake Scott are solid players as well.

“We are starting to hit the ball much better and are playing better defensively,” said Welsh. “With our pitching we know we can be a really good baseball team. It’s just a matter of getting it done on the field.”

Mike Morrison is a part-time Marietta Times sports writer.