As John Patrone enters his sixth season leading the Bellaire High School baseball team, he has a good feeling.
Experience is the reason.
''We return 10 guys who have started for us over the past two years,'' he said. ''On paper, we should be very competitive. Unfortunately, the game isn't played on paper and we need to execute. So, we'll see how things play out.''
T-L Photo/SETH STASKEY
PICTURED ARE the key returnees for the Bellaire baseball team. Front row, from left, are Tyler West, Bralen Snell and Nathan Steele. Second row, from left, are J.J. Longwell, Nick Patrone, Nick Hall and Spencer Badia. Back row, from left, are Hunter Westlake, Brendon Ross, Tyler Ramsay and Wyatt Back. Absent was Dom Vinka.
Eight of those players started last season - Nick Patrone, Wyatt Back, Brendon Ross, Tyler West, Hunter Westlake, Nathan Steele, Dom Vinka and Tyler Ramsay.
Spencer Badia and Bralen Snell, who both started two years ago, also return.
Nick Patrone, a senior, will play second and pitch this season. He could also catch.
''Defensively, he's got very good hands and feet,'' John Patrone said. ''Offensively, he's been hitting the ball hard this spring. He's always been consistent, getting quality at-bats. Last year, he had 26 hits, scored 18 runs and led the team in walks with 17.''
As a pitcher, Nick Patrone held opponents to a .189 batting average and posted 75 strikeouts in 63 innings pitched.
Badia missed last season after injuring himself during the 2012 football finale.
''Having him back on the mound is huge for us,'' John Patrone said of the senior. ''He has been one of the top pitchers since he was a freshman and I expect him to pick up right where he left off.''
At the plate as a sophomore, Badia batted .451 with 32 hits, 25 RBI and 25 stolen bases.
Back enters his third year as the Big Reds' catcher.
''He's been very solid, and an excellent defensive catcher with a quick release,'' John Patrone said of the senior. ''Offensively, Wyatt started coming on the last couple of weeks of the season. He's been work in the cage and is hitting the ball hard.''
Back is also being counted on to throw more innings on the mound this season.
Juniors Nathan Steele and Hunter Westlake round out the pitching staff.
''Overall, last year our staff did a pretty good job of limiting the other team's hitting,'' John Patrone said. ''However, we allowed too many free passes that really hurt us at times (117 walks and 23 hit batters in 176 innings).
''This year, our focus on the mound is to improve our control. We have to do a better job of making hitters earn their way on base.''
Steele is also in the mix in the infield and behind the plate. Westlake played third and short in 2013.
Ross, a senior, will play first base.
''Since last season, he's gotten bigger and stronger,'' John Patrone said. ''I can already see it in the cage.''
Snell, Vinka, West and Ramsay - all juniors - comprise the outfield.
Others in the mix include senior Robert Kovalyk (OF), juniors JJ Longwell (OF, letterwinner), Nick Hall (P-Util, letterwinner), Michael Kovalyk (C-OF), Alex Hibbitts (OF), A.J. Anastasia (C-OF), sophomores Bear Cumberlidge (P-IF), Luke McDonough (1B) and Mitch Parker (1B), and freshmen Cody Hamilton (P-Util), Jerod Crawford (P-Util) and Josh Crawford (P-Util).
Patrone is assisted by Dave Hagiloizou, Eric Driscoll and Chris Ciatti.
Bellaire's schedule is as follows. All times are 5 p.m. unless noted.
March 29 - at Linsly, Noon; March 31 - Harrison Central; April 2 - at Harrison Central; April 3 - Shadyside (at Consol Energy Park), 7 p.m.; April 4 - at Edison; April 5 - Barnesville (DH), Noon; April 7 - Edison; April 9 - at St. Clairsville; April 11 - St. Clairsville; April 12 - at Meadowbrook (DH), Noon; April 14 - at Martins Ferry; April 15 - Bridgeport; April 16 - Martins Ferry; April 19 - Indian Creek, Noon; April 21 - at Buckeye Local; April 22 - Cameron; April 23 - Buckeye Local; April 26 - Union Local, Noon; April 28 - at Union Local; April 29 - at Indian Creek; May 2 - OVAC Championship; May 5 - at Cameron; May 6 - at Steubenville; May 7 - Steubenville Central