By PAUL HINES
MT. VERNON —
The Rams baseball team lost six seniors but returns a host of experience this season.
“This group has a lot of quality seniors with experience,” Mt. Vernon coach Tim Holloway said. “We have the seniors on this varsity roster, and a lot of them got some (at-bats) last year and some innings. We hope that experience pays off.”
Tyler Ellis and Brock Fulkerson will be at the top of the team’s pitching rotation. Both were solid options behind graduated Jared Anthis. Ellis, a Rend Lake College signee, finished the season 5-3 in 59 innings with a 2.61 earned run average. Fulkerson enters this year as a junior after a 4-3 season over 45 innings. He ended the year with a 2.47 era.
“We feel like we have a deep staff this year,” Holloway said. “Brock and Tyler have done a good job in the past. Those guys are going to be at the top.”
Other players the Rams could turn to on the mound are: Landon Thomas, Thomas Weber, Sawyer Harrison, Colten Meador, Tyler Morgan and Trevor Flota.
Up the middle of the diamond, the Rams bring back more experience with catcher Collin Young, Matthew Williams (second base), and center fielder Thomas. The senior center fielder has already committed to Rend Lake College. Williams batted .371 last season for the Rams. Hayden Poninski primarily played in the outfield a year ago but is also an option at shortstop.
Weber and Morgan add depth to the catching spot for Mt. Vernon.
“We feel very strongly that the catching position has to be solid to have a good team, and we have two guys who we feel like do a good job there,” Holloway said.
Other returning players give the Rams flexibility. In addition to pitching Meador can play first base. Sawyer Harrison will be at third base. Flota can play first or third.
The Rams have a multitude of players available to play the corner outfield positions with Clayton Reeves, Flota, Pat Bradford, Jake Pike, Zach Jines and Tyler Morgan all figuring into the spots.
“There are some guys that are better defensively that we can sub late defensive-wise,” Holloway said. “There are some guys with some pop. We’ve got a lefty bat or two in there where we can go depending on who’s pitching.
“We have some options depending on the game and the situation. That could be a determining factor in who’s playing that day.”
The Rams have dominated the South Seven Conference over the past few years. In three seasons, Mt. Vernon has lost just one of its 30 conference games with a perfect 10-0 year in 2012. The team’s last conference loss came on April 21, 2011 against Belleville Althoff.
“You have to expect to win, if you’re going to win, and our guys do,” Holloway said. “Now a lot of those games over the past three, four years in that conference have been battles. There’s several of them that we have come from seven or eight runs back to win those games. There are a lot of one, two run games in there. It has not come easy.”
Mt. Vernon opens the season with a 4:30 p.m. Tuesday home game against Salem. The Rams finished 26-10 overall last season.