Spring sports preview: Oak Harbor baseball

After years of kicking around the bottom half of the Wesco standings, this may be the year the Oak Harbor High School baseball team challenges for a league title.

Wildcat coach Tyson VanDam said, “My expectations for the season are high.”  His club returns 11 varsity players (including eight pitchers), and he said the goal is to finish in the top two in Wesco 3A, which would earn Oak Harbor its first district berth since 1994.

The 10-12 Wildcats made their first post-season appearance in over a decade last spring when they topped Arlington in a play-off game to earn the right to meet Shorewood to determine the final entry into the district tournament.

Oak Harbor lost to Shorewood 3-2, and the Thunderbirds went on to finish fourth in the state 4A tournament.

The T-birds, along with Oak Harbor, dropped to 3A this year and expect to be the Wildcats’ biggest obstacle in taking the division crown.  Shorewood returns three players who have signed with Division I schools, and two are pitchers who are ranked as the No. 1 and No. 5 prospects in the state.

Oak Harbor will counter with a strong senior class led by outfielder Jay Stout, a two-time, first-team all-league player.  Senior outfielder Yale Rosen also earned first-team honors last year and senior outfielder Sam Wolfe was second team.

Seniors Ryan Byrne (IF/P), Justin Counts (IF), David Tillotson (C) and Josh Evans (P/IF); and juniors Sam Glavick (C), Peter Franssen (OF/P) and Gabe Clark (SS/P) also lettered in 2010. Clark was on last year’s Wesco 4A honorable mention list.

Key newcomers, according to VanDam, are senior Matt Jackson (OF); junior Zach Zimmer (P/1B); and sophomores Austin Walker (C/1B/3B), Grant Schroeder (IF), Corey Cameron (OF), Jack Richter (IF/P) and Andrew Snavely (Utl).

VanDam sees the team’s strengths as speed and pitching depth: “I would be fine giving six guys the green light, and I also like that we have eight pitchers with experience.”

He said his team has no “glaring weakness” but is a little thin in experience coming off the bench: “All this means is that there are about four or five guys who will start on the JV and have a chance to prove they want to be on the varsity before we start league.”

The Wildcats take part in a jamboree at Archbishop Thomas Murphy today, March 12, at noon, then host Mount Vernon Tuesday, March 15, at 4 p.m.

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