Hillsboro High School baseball coach Doug Dick has tried over his three-year head coaching tenure to not stereotype players.
An example is two years ago when the Trojans finished third in the 3A state baseball championship tournament. On that team, Tyler Ediger started at shortstop for the second half of the season. Ediger had the plate presence and build of a slugging first baseman, which is where he started the year. However, his athleticism and sure hands led him to a position normally captained by slimmer players.
“I’m not throwing anything out the window yet,” Dick said.
Dick may take a similar approach to this year’s Trojan squad. Hillsboro lost power-hitting seniors Aaron Bina and Ben Gardner to graduation. Dylan Delk also hit in the middle of the order and was the Trojans’ most dominant hurler.
The team will be remade in an image more dependent on small ball. Seniors Derek Kelsey and Luke Moore are sure handed with the bat, but are not usually a threat to leave the ballpark. Lucas Sinclair is athletic like Bina or Gardner but is more prone to reach base on a slow grounder than a towering line drive.
Kelsey, Moore, and Sinclair will be the new prototype players for Hillsboro. They are all-business, hard workers, willing to play multiple positions and do what it takes to win.
While juniors Nathan Unruh, David Nelson, Dylan Jirak, and Kale Arnold could provide the Trojans with pop down the lineup, Hillsboro will be defined by hitters like Jordan Faul and David Dick.
Faul, only a sophomore this season, started at designated hitter for Hillsboro last season. Standing at about 5-foot-5, he will not cause opposing pitchers to cower on the mound. However, Faul has an uncanny knack for reaching base.
Doug Dick described his freshman son David as a left-handed hitting version of Faul.
With fewer sluggers in the lineup, defense will be more important to Hillsboro this season. Again, Sinclair, Moore, and Kelsey will be the cornerstones.
Dick said all three will play multiple positions. Sinclair will play shortstop, pitch, catch, and play outfield. Moore will pitch, catch, and play centerfield. Kelsey will play either corner outfield position and first base.
Dick is depending on Moore and Sinclair to fill the void vacated by Bina behind the plate. Over the past four years, catcher has never been a concern for Dick with Bina donning the “tools of ignorance.” Sinclair may be able to provide the same type of comfort at shortstop. Of course, when Moore is on the mound, Sinclair moves behind the plate. Sinclair started at short all of last season.
Cody Delk will back up Sinclair at short and could also see time in the outfield and on the mound.
Sinclair’s double play partner will likely be Faul at second base. Being a heady player, Faul should quickly pick up the nuances of the other middle infield spot, Dick said.
Arnold will likely start at first base, when he is not on the mound, although Kelsey and Nelson may also see time at first.
Senior Aaron Wintermote will be a fixture in the outfield, although he could play left or right field.
Unruh has bead on third base job.
“Unruh could have played third for me last year,” Dick said. “He didn’t see a lot of time because of Gardner.”
Dylan Jirak, who has impressed at the plate, may see time in the outfield.
The likely opening day starter for Hillsboro will be Moore. Arnold will likely be the second pitcher called to the mound. Dick said he was currently working out nine different pitchers who may see innings here and there.
Dick added that he knew Dylan Delk would be a quality pitcher last year but did not know he would become a dominant starter. He is hoping one of the Trojan pitchers makes that same transition this season.
Freshmen Micah Allen, Josh Funk, and Jacob Hanschu will provide the Trojans with speed off the bench.
The Trojans start the season March 27 with Little River in Hillsboro. Dick has circled home matchups with 4A Central Kansas League schools Kingman, April 5, and Pratt, April 17.
“I wish we would have played them twice at home last year,” Dick said. “We probably would have picked up two more wins.”
A matchup May 4 with Marion in Marion also looms for Hillsboro. Three Marion and Hillsboro matchups were battles in 2011 and the Warriors have nearly everyone returning.
“I have a lot of respect for those kids,” Dick said. “We’re going to have to show up and play well against them. Rivalries stem from being competitive with each other.