By Paul Hines
MT. VERNON —
Not many pieces from the Rams state final baseball team return this year, but the few that do will play a critical role in the team's success.
All-state hurler Brock Fulkerson leads the pitching brigade. Fulkerson led the Rams with 11 wins last year as a junior.
Behind Fulkerson are senior pitchers Thomas Weber and Tyler Morgan. Both threw about 20 innings for the Rams last year.
“We have three seniors that we can throw out there so that's always nice, and of course you can't beat having an all-stater back so it's good to have that No. 1,” Mt. Vernon coach Tim Holloway said. “Those guys were part of a special team. They know what it takes, and they will definitely set the tone for our staff.”
Another key component is Jake Pike. The senior is the lone returning field starter. A year ago as a junior Pike was surrounded by seven senior starters. He hit .328 and drove in 28 RBI while playing the outfield. This season he could move to first base. It's a spot he's familiar with after spending his younger years there.
Holloway added that Ryan Campbell is the front runner for the shortstop spot. Reed Millwood and Tyler Morgan are competing for the starting spot at second . The duo of Darick Hayes and Braden Smith are in the mix at third base.
The graduation of eight starting seniors has freed up several positions for sophomores and juniors this season.
“There's a lot of opportunities for juniors and even some sophomores so there's a lot of excitement with our players,” Holloway said. “They've been waiting for their shot, and there's some good competition and that makes practice a lot of fun."
In addition to pitching, Weber will be the team's starting catcher. Aaren Morgan and Hayes will serve as backups.
Zach Brookman, Blake Jones, Zach Jines, Sam Storment and Connor Storey are all options in the outfield.
“We have some lefty bats in there,” Holloway said. “Depending on who's pitching and whether it's a righty or a lefty that day could depend on who's playing that day.
“Game situations and matchups will depend a lot of times on who might play that day.”
Mt. Vernon opens the season with a road trip to Salem on Tuesday, March 18.