Chardon returns just three starters from the team that won the Western Reserve Conference title and a Division I sectional championship last spring.
The Hilltoppers also have to rebuild their entire pitching staff, but that hasn’t changed head coach Brian Long’s approach to the season nor his expectations.
“We have a lot of talent in this 2018 team but lack varsity experience,” Long said. “Once our guys get experience, we should develop into one of the top Division II teams in Northeast Ohio. I expect this team to compete for a WRC title and a district title.”
Chardon dropped to Division II this spring but the path in the postseason isn’t any easier considering the quality of opponents the Hilltoppers will face in the district and beyond.
Coupled with an inexperienced roster, Long has his work cut out for him this spring, but he’s confident success is within reach.
“This is the most inexperienced team that I have ever coached due to the 2017 senior class,” Long said. “This 2018 team may not have the experience as some other teams, but there is a lot of talent. Hopefully, the young guys get experience and develop into good varsity players.”
Chardon’s projected starting lineup includes seniors Dylan Hemly, Tyler Nameth, Grant Goodge, Myles Metz, Dan Schreffler and Luke Callahan, juniors Cole Purchase, Evan Fairbanks and Jacob Urbic and sophomore Joey Trivisonno.
Only Hemly, Goodge, Metz and Callahan have varsity experience.
Hemly, the catcher, recorded a .434 on-base percentage and knocked in 17 runs in earning all-conference honors.
“Dylan is one of my favorite kids that I have ever coached,” Long said. “He always puts the team first. An example is his ability to get hit by pitches that benefits the team—17 last season. Hemly is a natural born leader and I believe he is the main key to keep the team close like a family. His football mentality has been great for our players. You need to be tough physically and mentality in this sport.”
Goodge will play second. He batted .222 in limited varsity games.
Metz, a Thiel College recruit, will be at shortstop after an all-conference performance last spring. He batted .347 with 17 RBI and 16 runs scored. He’ll also pitch.
“Myles is going to have to play many roles for this year’s team,” Long said. “He will need to replace Perry Bewley at shortstop and pitcher. Myles has the talent to be that guy this season.”
Callahan, a Gannon recruit who will play center field, batted .317 with 15 RBI and 22 runs scored. He also earned all-conference honors.
“Luke is expected to have a great season,” Long said. “He should be one of the top players in the WRC and Northeast Ohio. Luke is a true definition of a ‘dirtbag’ baseball player. The kid eats, sleeps, breathes baseball. Luke carries the five tools of a baseball player.”
Nameth and Purchase will split duties at first base while Fairbanks and Schreffler will platoon at third. Trivisonno will line up in left field while Urbic will play right.
Senior Dakota Baldwin, Metz, sophomore Daniel Thomas, junior Richie Stefancic and Purchase all will see time on the mound.
Baldwin was 1-0 with a 1.58 earned run average and 15 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings of work last spring. Metz was 1-1 with a 1.68 ERA in just 8 1/3 innings and Stefancic threw just four innings and ended the year with a 1.75 ERA. The others didn’t play varsity.
“Playing 27 games in just over a month is a very difficult thing to do for any team, especially with the new pitch count rules,” Long said. “We need sophomore Daniel Thomas and junior Richie Stefancic to step up and have a great year on the mound. Luke Callahan and Joey Trivisonno will be closing most of the games this year.”
While Chardon is young and inexperienced, the Hilltoppers have plenty of talent in the lineup.
Success this season depends on each player stepping up and filling his role, especially on the mound and in the field.
“We need to be able to pitch and play defense,” Long said. “We graduated about 90-percent of the innings (pitched0 from last year’s team. We relied heavily on dominant pitching performances. This year we are going to have to play great defense and our offense needs to provide run support for our inexperienced pitchers.”