By Jason Lawrence
Special to The Citizen
Park Hill South coach Josh Walker subscribes to the old baseball adages that pitching and defense lead to success. The Panthers’ winningest coach in school history is also hoping his team’s pitching and defense come out of the gates strong.
“We will go as our pitching goes,” said Walker, who is 114-105 at Park Hill South. “We need some young kids to step up and we need quality innings out of our upperclassmen.”
With top pitching options Ryan Hagen, a first-team all-Suburban Conference Red Division pick last season, and Jake Evans, who garnered second-team recognition in the outfield, both graduated, the Panthers will lean heavily on senior Collin Brougham, who was a second-team all-conference pitcher as a junior, to lead the rotation as they look to improve upon 2017’s 12-17 record, including a 4-6 mark in conference play.
Seniors Billy Eggers, Jack Beuerlein, Dominic Scudiero and junior Sam Beuerlein will also see time on the mound, while Eggers and Jack Beuerlein will fill infield spots and Scudiero and Sam Beuerlein project in the outfield while not pitching — taking spots left vacant by Evans and fellow second-team all-conference pick Andrew Aswegan, who also graduated.
Senior first baseman Stephen Personelli, senior infielder Malik ‘Leeko’ Stevenson — who signed with Division I Southern — and junior catcher Jackson Dixon all return to the lineup, as well, following all-conference performances a season ago. Walker, who is assisted by Russ McDaniels, Jon Sobbe and Trevor Allison, also expects junior infielder Alex Rodriguez and newcomers Kris Davis, a catcher, and outfielder Xavier Hammond to see playing time at the varsity level.
Park Hill South hopes compete for both conference and district championships with a more experienced squad.
“Liberty and Liberty North are always very tough,” Walker said of the teams he anticipates battling for Suburban Conference Red Division title.