Last season, the Sandwich baseball team had a relatively small roster of just 12 players, six seniors and six juniors, that competed well together and led the Indians to a respectable 16-15 overall record along with a nifty 11-5 mark in the ultra-tough Interstate Eight Conference.
A year later, veteran SHS coach Jason Van Pelt (8th year, 84-114) has seen his varsity roster balloon to a sizeable 18 competitors, but now with only four seniors and a whopping 14 juniors.
Van Pelt hopes despite the youthful squad his team can continue to build upon the success established last spring.
"We had a very good season last year considering the tough nonconference schedule we played, and then of course the I-8 schedule we always compete against," Van Pelt said. "The cool thing is that even though we don't have a lot of guys returning, many of those we've got back played a big part in our success last year, including five that contributed big time.
"We've got a very athletic group with some live arms, and I hope we'll be a solid team again this year, and that's exciting moving forward."
First and foremost of the key returners is senior pitcher and shortstop Andrew Gipe, who as a junior recorded a 4-1 record with a 3.24 earned-run average while striking out 41 batters in 41 innings pitched. He also recorded a .293 average at the plate with 17 runs batted in and 24 runs scored as a Times All-Area Third Team selection.
"I'm pretty excited to lead our team this year, and as a junior last season I just went out and did my job," Gipe said. "Now as a senior, I know I need to be a top performer and help guide everyone else."
Gipe will be joined by senior Sean Smith (4-1, 25 K, 2.28 ERA, 30 IP) on the hill as the No. 1 and No. 2 guys entering the campaign. Smith figures to play third base when not pitching.
"I'm looking to throw a lot of innings this year and hope I can pile up more strikeouts," Smith said. "I want to go out with a bang in my senior year, and I'm going to try my best to play every game hard like Andrew and I have since we've been competing together since we were little."
Rounding out the Sandwich starting rotation will be senior Wyatt Murphy and junior brother Jackson Murphy. When not on the mound, Wyatt figures to be a fixture in the outfield, while Jackson should see time at first base and at shortstop.
Senior Devin Carrera will be a key member to team success both catching and in the outfield, while juniors Austin Ford (C, OF), Kyle Theurer (1B, OF), Jaron Schiera (C), Andrew Poirier (1B, OF), Johnny Kruswicki (IF,P) and Rex Avery (IF/P) should also prove vital to a competitive mix of players vying for lead roles.