A 4-2 loss to St. Ignatius in the Division I state championship game last spring isn’t something the Mentor Cardinals will soon forget.
With six starters and 11 lettermen returning from that state runner-up squad, the Cardinals have the potential to make another long postseason run, but it starts by keeping their focus on what lies ahead and not on what they accomplished last season.
“We have to play for each other and not live in the past,” Mentor coach Jeff Haase said. “Last year was great, but nobody cares what you did last year. This is what counts, the game that is in front of you.”
The Cardinals, who finished 23-6 overall and 10-4 in the Greater Cleveland Conference, are loaded with talent and experience. They also have several new faces that will fill the holes in the lineup.
“We return a lot of guys with experience and have a nice group of younger guys looking to make a name for themselves,” Haase said. “If we continue to jell as one unit we could have a very good year.”
When it comes to team strengths, Mentor will rely on its pitching and defense to set the tone for the season.
The Cardinals return three of their top four pitchers and their middle infield.
Ace Chad Rogers, a Penn State commitment and Prep Baseball Report preseason All-Ohioan, is a four-year starter and senior Charlie Hawley, a Mount Union commitment, has been a staple on the mound for three seasons. Junior Aiden Limtury and senior Alex Ehinger round out the projected starting rotation.
Hawley is a two-time All-GCC honoree.
Shortstop Andrew Witte, a Mount Union commitment, and catcher Eric Coode both are three-year starters.
Coode earned All-GCC honors last spring while Witte was all-conference and all-district.
First baseman Hal Walker and center fielder Noah Gladish, along with Limtury in left field and Ehinger, who will play third, are all two-year starters. Second baseman Cael Gray and right fielder Aidan Buckley are the only new faces in Mentor’s defensive lineup.
Haase also expects contributions from juniors Danny Mulhall, Ryland Talley and Logan Yeary and sophomore Stevie Nedlik.
If there’s a question mark for the Cardinals this season it’s going to come at the plate and producing runs.
“We can overcome it by using our team speed and athleticism,” Haase said. “We have to be more consistent in the middle of our lineup.”