Wayne County schools kicked off the baseball season this week.  

Hagerstown, ranked fifth in the pre-season 2A coaches’ poll, will start the season as the only Wayne County team in the state rankings, but there are reasons to be optimistic about the upcoming season for all six schools.  

1A – Cambridge City Lincoln

Record last season: 8-14 overall, 2-6 in Tri-Eastern Conference

Head coach: Jeff Gwin

Jeff Gwin will return to the Lincoln baseball program to assume the head coaching position, and he will have a team with proven talent.

Jeran Troutwine, a veteran catcher and the only senior on the team, is a team leader who leads by example. A sophomore and three juniors are also expected to make significant contributions.

Dustin Lunsford, an All-First team TEC performer last year as a freshman will help anchor the outfield and is also expected to see mound duty. Jack Patton will join Lunsford in the outfield and will bat early in the batting order.

Carson Hawk, an honorable mention All-TEC performer last season, rounds out the impressive Eagle outfield. Hawk can also play any middle infield position and is versatile at the plate, batting anywhere he is needed in the batting order. Evan Stuckey is an athletic infielder who can play multiple positions and will also see mound duty.

Oliver Webb will be the number one pitching option and will likely pitch most conference games. He is also a proven team leader.

The Eagles will open regular-season play on Friday, March 29, against the Taylor Titans (Kokomo) in a game to be played on the campus of Indiana Wesleyan University. The Titans are coached by former Lincoln head baseball coach Matt Brankle.

The home opener for Lincoln will be on Saturday, March 30, when they host Oldenburg Academy.  

1A – Seton Catholic 

Record last season: 5-17 overall, 4-4 in Pioneer Conference

Head coach: Jordan Parker

Roster information was not available at press time. The Cardinals are scheduled to open regular season play on Wednesday, March 27, when they host Randolph Southern. They will host Greenwood Christian on Saturday March 30.

2A – Hagerstown

Record last season: 23-8 overall, 6-2 in Tri-Eastern Conference

Head Coach: Jay Hale

The Tigers are the only defending sectional champion among the Wayne County programs and they have the players to make a strong bid to repeat. With five roster players already committed to play college baseball, and several others considering offers, defending 2A sectional No. 41 champion Hagerstown has the players to make a deep post-season run.

Third year head coach Jay Hale has compiled a record of 39-18 in his first two seasons, winning the Tri-Eastern Conference Championship in his first season, and winning the sectional last season. His 2024 team has the potential to be his best yet.

Hale returns 18 players with varsity experience. Competition for playing time will be spirited. Eight returning players drove in more than 10 runs last season, led by Wyatt Burris with 33. Collin Beaty (.308), Burris (.396), Ethan Campbell (.309), Will Combs (.400), Carter Craig (.324), Kayne Ervin (.329), Cole Tracy (.341) and Ben Williams (.337) all batted over 300.

Once on base, the Tigers are aggressive. They stole 76 bases last year. Pitching will be by committee, with no less than eight Tigers expected to share mound duties.   

The Tigers opened regular-season play on Monday, March 25 at Frankton, and hosted Connersville on Tuesday, March 26. Their home opener will be Thursday, March 28, when they host the Richmond Red Devils.

2A — Northeastern

Record last season: 20-9 overall, 6-2 in Tri-Eastern Conference

Head coach: Dave Baker

If success comes down to pitching Northeastern may have the upper hand. The Knights, one of only two Wayne County teams to reach the 20-win plateau last season, will have a potent pitching staff led by twin brothers Kaiden and Logan White.

Last year, Logan compiled a 6-3 record, with a 2.98 ERA, while striking out 41 batters. Brother Kaiden compiled a 5-2 record, with a minuscule ERA of 1.46. while striking out 53 batters. Both have excellent control of their pitches.

The Knights graduated several key players, but they return five players who appeared in 20 or more games last season. Kaiden White leads the returnees after batting .410 and driving in 20 runs last season. Blake Waters drove in 17 runs.

The Knights opened regular-season play on Tuesday, March 26, when they hosted Tri Village. They will host potential sectional opponent Shenandoah on Monday, April 1.

3A — Centerville  

Record last season: 12-10 overall, 5-3 in Tri-Eastern Conference

Head coach: Corey Van Skyock

Two years removed from a trip to the state finals, the Bulldogs know what it takes to win. Kollyn Peed, Colton Rinehart, Gavin Robinson and Jennings Rusznak are holdovers from the state runner-up team and are expected to provide leadership for the young Bulldog squad.

The Bulldogs return eight players who played in at least 15 games last season. Rinehart batted .339 and drove in 13 runs last season. Robinson batted .279 with 14 runs batted in, and Peed anchors the middle infield defensively.

Rusznak, who made seven mound appearances last year, compiling an era of 2.58, is expected to be one of the top hurlers for the Bulldogs. 

Centerville opens regular-season play on Monday, April 1, when they host Monroe Central.   

4A — Richmond

Record last season 14-12 overall, 8-1 in North Central Conference

Head coach: Rod Mattix

Overall, the Red Devils will be young, but their pitching staff will have some experience. Senior Casey Blevins compiled a 5-1 record last season, posting a 2.65 era, while striking out 58 batters. Sophomore Aiden McWhinney compiled a 1-1 record with an era of 4.67, recording 12 strikeouts.

Senior D’Shaun Harper, who led the team with a .475 batting average, also made seven mound appearances striking out 20 batters. Senior Dustin Moore had a batting average of .327 in 18 games last season; senior Trey Pipenger hit .309 in 22 games. 

The Red Devils opened regular-season play on Tuesday, March 26, with a game at Connersville. They will play at Hagerstown on Thursday, March 28.

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A version of this article appeared in the March 27 2024 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Dan Harney is a sports reporter at the Western Wayne News.