Chagrin Falls returns eight full-time starters from last year’s team that won 24 games and reached the Division II regional semifinals.
The Tigers also have some pretty lofty goals.
“Our expectations for this season are very high,” said Chagrin Falls coach Michael Sweeney, who is in his 18th season at the school. “We have everyone back and have a lot of confidence entering the season. However, we all know that we have to still play the games and are not looking past anyone. We just want to play each and every game the best that we can.”
The Tigers, the defending Chagrin Valley Conference Chagrin Division champs, have a lineup filled with talent and experience.
Chagrin Falls will start five seniors in the field and have a very deep pitching staff.
“Our pitching staff and lineup are about as deep as any team that I have ever coached,” Sweeney said. “We do not have a lot of weaknesses unless we get complacent. I do not expect that from a team filled with upperclassmen who have big goals for this team.”
Returning for the Tigers is CVC Player of the Year Erik Wilson, a first team All-Ohioan, who batted .348 with 19 runs batted in and also was 10-1 on the mound with a 0.500 earned run average and 46 strikeouts.
The two-year captain had a streak of 42 consecutive innings without giving up a run last season and pitched seven complete-game shutouts to earn a spot in the state record books.
“He had one of the best seasons on the mound that I have ever seen,” Sweeney said. “Erik is a great leader and was voted team captain for the second straight season. He is extremely competitive, which is one of the reasons he excels on the mound.”
Senior catcher Cole Newbauer also was named All-CVC and earned second team All-Ohio honors.
Newbauer batted .364 with 22 RBI and 36 runs scored. He also stole 34 bases and threw out 12 would be base stealers.
“Cole does everything for us behind the plate,” Sweeney said. “He is a tremendous leader. He is vocal and plays hard all of the time. Cole, like Erik, was voted team captain for the second straight season.”
Sophomore second baseman Kyle Zaluski and junior center fielder Jack Amendola were named first team All-CVC last spring while senior shortstop Adam Bencko, senior third baseman/pitcher Colin Kennedy and junior left fielder Sam Dolan earned second team honors. Senior first baseman Jack Reboul and junior DH/utility player Max Faulds were named honorable mention.
All nine of Chagrin Falls’ projected starters earned postseason honors in 2017.
“I am extremely excited about this team,” Sweeney said. “We have the potential to be one of the best teams in the state of Ohio. We have an outstanding pitching staff. We should play great defense. We have tremendous speed. I expect us to hit the ball with more power this season. Baseball is a funny game and you never know what can happen, but we should compete for a CVC championship as well as a third straight district championship.”
Wilson, Kennedy, Ben Cervelloni, Cole Weiss, Dylan Scheetz and Faulds are expected to handle most of the pitching duties while Amendola is slotted as the closer.
The Tigers allowed just 2.612 runs per game and struck out 151 batters in 201 innings pitched.
“Our pitchers who did not throw big innings last season could have a major impact on our team,” Sweeney said. “This includes Ben Cervelloni, Cole Weiss, Dylan Scheetz and Jack Amendola. Dawson Pierce also could contribute at some point during the season as a position player, catcher or pitcher.”
Talent, depth, experience, leadership and team speed are among the strengths the Tigers bring to the diamond each day.
Finding a weakness, that’s the hard part for opponents this season.
“Honestly, and I have never said this before, we don’t have any glaring weaknesses,” Sweeney said. “We obviously aren’t a perfect team, but we do everything pretty well. We also have great leadership and outstanding people on this team. We need to play our best each and every day. We need to stay focused and just play normal. If we do that, we should be successful.”