With numbers low again this season, the Paden City Wildcat varsity baseball team will begin their season with 11 players, all but two with real varsity experience.
The 'Cats will begin their season this week with five lettermen leading the way: seniors Jared Stewart, Taylor Still, and Kyle Staton; junior Matt Barker, and sophomore Kyle Postlethwait.
Stewart will see time in the outfield as well as at second and first base and fill in as a pitcher when needed; Billiter is the returning varsity catcher and will also see time on the mound; Still will hold down his left field position and pitch a few innings; and Staton will see time mainly at first, third, and some right field.
The only junior on the team, Matt Barker, will return to center field, see time at the short stop position, as well as pitch. Sophomore letter winner, Postlethwait will stay at third base and see some innings on the mound.
"Offensively we should be better than we were last year," said veteran head coach of the team, Brent Croasmun.
"We did not have one veteran pitcher on the team last year and that was a major weakness for us. We still have a long way to go, but we have some arms we think we can develop into competitive pitchers. Right now, Postlethwait appears to be our strongest arm at this point, and pitched the most innings for us last year."
"We will still be a young baseball team, although we will have four seniors who start."
Along with the starters, also vying for spots on the field for the 'Cats will be: senior Kyle McFadden; sophomore, Tyler Stackpole; and freshmen, Zach Heasley, Craig Allen, and Levi Meadows. McFadden will likely see time in the outfield, as will Stackpole.
Heasley looks to see a good bit of time at first and on the mound while Allen will step into some action at short and second and Meadows will see time at second, catcher, and outfield.
"Stewart and Billiter came on strong during the end of the season last year and will have to carry us this year. Kyle Staton improved his hitting as the season progressed and will also be counted on to drive in runs."
The Wildcats lost one senior to graduation last season, Zach Yost. "He will be hard to replace in the lead off spot," the coach said. "He was our lead off hitter and was one of the best base runners in the Ohio Valley. Barker is much stronger swinging the bat and our three freshmen have shown signs of improving our offense."
"Defensively, we will be better,"Croasmun said. Still, Barker and Stewart or Levi Meadows will start in the outfield. Staton may see some time in right field.
"Our other outfielders will be McFadden and Stackpole. Postlethwait and Staton will play third; Allen will be at shortstop, and Barker will back him up. Heasley will get the start at first and, when he is on the mound, Staton or Stewart will see time there," said Croasmun.
"In fact, Stewart will play anywhere we need him, depending on who is pitching that day.
"Billiter will start at the catcher's position and we're looking to give Levi Meadows some innings behind the plate as well."
Croasmun is being assisted once again by Jeff Hohn, who has been with the team for the past seven years.
Lady 'Cat Softball Team
Eighteen players have signed up to be a part of Lady Wildcat softball at Paden City High School for the 2012 season. That's a number head coach Jeanne Fox says she is excited to work with.
"This is a great group of girls," she said. "They have a great work ethic and are excited to get our season started. They're ready to play ball."
The team will be led by two seniors this season, returner, Dominique Craft and Amanda Heasley. Craft will start at her tried and true catcher position while Heasley will hold down third throughout the year.
Junior returners on the team include pitching ace Kelsey Loy, the go-to girl in the circle for the 'Cats; Lynah Stanley in the outfield; and Hailey Wade also in the outfield. Mara Greathouse and Samantha Lyons will be utilized in the field as well.
Only one sophomore, Katie Shreves, returns to the Wildcat line up, likely seeing time in an outfield position and perhaps behind the plate.
Freshmen making the varsity cut for the Green and White include: Megan Pierce backing up third and playing in the field; Hannah Stanley at second base; Graeson Baker, first base; Kayla Hizer, center field; Kayla Barker, outfield; Amber Neff, short-stop; Mallory Estel, catcher/outfield; and Tori Anderson, left field.
Also in the freshmen line-up are Cierra Yoho, Tara Lewis, and Nikki Little, all looking to take over varsity positions as the season continues.
As for pitching, the 'Cats are easily four deep behind the arm of Loy. Seeing time in the circle for the Green will be Heasley, Hizer, and Neff, with a few others still trying out their arms.
As it is with softball, the coach counts "youth" as both the teams greatest strength and weakness. "Youth is our greatest strength because we have so many freshmen out for the team and they are so enthusiastic and ready to play," Fox said. "Plus it bodes well for the future of the program. But it's also our weakness because the majority of them have not been put in game situations yet and Assistant Coach Vance Ash and I have no idea how they will react. We'll just have to wait and see."
All told, the Lady 'Cats have two seniors, one sophomore, five juniors, and 10 freshmen taking the field in 2012, and will field a junior varsity squad again this season.
"We're scheduling junior varsity games with as many teams as we can," Fox said. "We need to get all of our kids as much playing time as we can."