Comets Baseball will rely on experienced lineup
Anna Kinasewitz | Staff Writer
The Mason Comets baseball team is determined to continue their winning ways in 2019.
After winning a league, district, and regional championship in a season that concluded in the state final four, there is not much room for improvement. However, University of Cincinnati commit Cole Harting said while the team has lost some key players from last year’s squad, their goals remain the same.
“Some goals we have are to win the league and make another run in the tournament,” Harting said. “I think we have strengths in all aspects of the game. We will hit the ball very well and we have dudes on the mound that can dominate.”
The Comets finished 26-6 a season ago, concluding their season with a 1-0 heartbreaker to Anthony Wayne in the state semi final. Gone from that team are the likes of Red Sox draft pick Nick Northcut, Ohio State recruit Will Pfennig, and all- conference players Rollie Sheriff and Evan Haas. But the Comets are not spending time worrying about the players who have departed; instead, sophomore and Indiana University commit Max Johnson said their focus is on the returning players and a host of talented newcomers.
“We lost a lot of pitching last year, so we’ll have to have some guys step up and fill some roles in the rotation,” Johnson said. “The same goes with defense; everyone is going to have to step up their game.”
The Comets have several returning players who garnered league honors a year ago. Back are Greater Miami Conference player of the year slugger J.P. Sponseller, an Elon University commit, catcher and University of Cincinnati commit Joe Powell, Harting (U.C.), Marietta commit Mason Holloway, and U.C. commit Evan Kemp.
Junior Harrison Johnson is another returnee who earned league honors last season. The Ohio University commit heads into the season with goals set for himself and the team after his impressive contributions from the plate during his sophomore year.
“Personal goals of mine include building off of my performance last year, helping the team any way I can, and taking on whatever role the coaches want me to,” Johnson said. “Team goals are always the same, we want to bring a state championship back to Mason and work hard and build relationships with our teammates.”
Even though the Comets return four of the team’s top five hitters from a year ago, they must take care of business on the mound. Bly knows the always difficult GMC is won with pitching. This season Head Coach Curt Bly said he’ll be counting on Evan Kemp, Dade Hensley (Indian Hill Community College commit), Kenyon Abbott, and AJ Kraus.
Depth on the pitching staff is critical: other pitchers Bly believes will contribute this season include seniors Chris Burke, Nick Niehoff, Tyler Bockerstette, juniors Chase Popplewell, Jack Steibel, Nick Powell, Collin Brown, Teddy Tolliver, and sophomore Ben Stuart.
“It’s a good mix of players,” Bly said. “The chemistry on the team is really strong. The boys don’t really look at each other as ‘classes,’ they’re teammates, so it really doesn’t matter what grade they are. Our older guys embrace our younger guys, and our younger guys are confident that they are a valuable part of the squad.”
The Comets face another tough schedule in 2019. The GMC is always one of the most challenging leagues in the state, but a non conference slate that includes LaSalle, Olentangy Orange, Springboro, Centerville and a trip to Tennessee to face three of the state’s top programs will force Bly’s team to play at a high level if they want to meet or exceed last year’s wins total.
“Playing a tough schedule is something we want to do every year,” Bly said. “It prepares us for the tournament, first and foremost. And competition breeds competition. We’re trying to put our guys in position to play against the best and try to improve our game as best we can.”
The seniors playing their final season of high school baseball want to continue the tradition of winning that has been established – and advance as far as they can in the postseason.
“We want to be playing our best baseball at the end,” Bly said. “We talk about writing the next chapter of Mason Baseball every year. The team that we have this year, this is their chapter. We talk to our seniors about putting their numbers on banners. We don’t say, ‘We’ve got to do this or accomplish that.’ We’re just trying to put the number ‘19 on more than one banner on that wall.”
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Photos by Tanner Pearson.
Video by Anna Kinasewitz.