It's no secret Perkins is the team to beat.
The Pirates have rolled to 11 Sandusky Bay Conference titles in the last 13 years, and while the team is used to having a target on its back, it's evident there are going to be a lot more teams aiming this season.
Perkins, St. Mary Central Catholic and Edison are among the clear cut favorites to contend for the conference title this season, but it's also clear no team can be overlooked.
“I think its going to be a very interesting SBC spring season, thus far the number one interest being the weather,” Perkins coach Ray Neill said. “I would add Clyde to that list. I think they have a pitcher or two, and they have the best shortstop in the conference.
“Their defense up the middle is pretty good” he added. “They are going to swing the bats too. Huron has maybe one of the top players in the whole conference with Zach Souter”
Apart from Port Clinton winning the league title in 2005 and Oak Harbor owning it in 2012, Perkins has dominated the field.
“I don't know that that affects anything in my dugout,” Neill said. “Unfortunately, it may have a bearing on who is on the mound against us. Our past success will put a target on our chest”
Colorado Rockies scout Chris Valentine put out his preseason all-Ohio selections last week. He included Perkins' Braun Miller as a first team selection at pitcher in Division II, SMCC's Brett St. Clair as a second teamer in Div. IV and Edison's Austin Utter on the first team for Div. III.
“I think Braun is one of two pretty good pitchers we have,” Neill said. “Obviously the Ohio State commitment is a significant happening, but it's to be decided whether he is even our number one pitcher. There is some competition there between him and Thane Walton that will play out”
Neill also noted that pitching won't save his team this year, the Pirates need to be fundamentally sound on every front.
“We have always prided ourselves on being pretty good defensively and I think there is some questions to be answered in that regard this year,” he said. “We come into this season somewhat untested in the middle of our infield at shortstop and second base. I have confidence in the guys that we have there right now to get the job done, but that will have to play out”
SMCC returns a core group of players that have 3-to-4 years of varsity experience and bring a strong pitching resume to the field.
“A lot of the kids started as freshmen. They've got a lot of games under their belt and they have played a lot of baseball together,” Panther coach Ben Stover said. “Our strength is just that experience. I only lost two guys from last year, and obviously there is a big whole to fill at catcher after losing Brandon Green as a four-year starter”
Stover added that with Edison and Perkins also returning depth on the mound, the title run will start at the plate.
“I think it's going to come down to hitting,” he said. “I think it will be a fun race. I think Clyde will also be there, and I think Huron is going to sneak up on people. The three or four teams at the top have a lot of pitching. I actually think hitting is going to be key because all those teams are going to cancel each other out in pitching. It's going to be a matter of who can score the runs. The key will be in the offense”
For Edison, hitting and defense will be a major points of emphasis.
The Chargers are established on the mound with names like Adam Wroblewski and Adam Wolf, but will need some hitting to step up and help Utter in the lineup.
“We have eight guys returning, and we return most of our pitching from last year,” Charger coach Sean Hoover said. “We have a little back, but our hitting we need to replace, and we need to play some good defense around our pitchers. Some of our defense we lost, and we need to replace those guys.
“Our guys know that if they work hard and come ready to play they have a chance to win against anybody on any given day,” Hoover added. “We take it one game at a time. I think every team sets that goal to win the league. We know we have to work hard and go day-by-day”