FC baseball eager for shot at regional
The Franklin County Wildcats’ baseball team finished 14-12 a season ago and their Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference record of 6-8 was their first losing season in conference play since 2015. The Cats will be looking to ride the momentum of last season’s playoffs where they defeated the EIAC champions Batesville in the second round. They fell to Connersville in the sectional championship by just one run to end their season.
This season the Cats return a cast of familiar faces with a loaded senior class. Brant Ertel, a George Mason commit, returns as the Cats’ number one starter on the mound for 2023. An injury limited Ertel to just 12 innings pitched last season. In his sophomore campaign, Ertel tallied 52 strikeouts while starting six games for FC. Trevor Moizuk returns for his senior season after hurling 18 innings a season ago, the most for any returning FC player. Eli Butt and Avery Harrison also saw time on the mound for coach Derek Stang last season. Stang had this to say about the Cats’ pitching staff: “We have about five guys that will see time on the mound, Ertel will be our number one starter but we want to keep his arm healthy so Trevor (Moizuk) and Eli (Butt) will get a lot of innings. Chase Burton is a senior who we will use quite a bit and Max Dickey and Ethan Brewer will also be used occasionally.
FC returns one of the top catchers in the EIAC in Xander Rodriguez. The signal caller hit .431 last season, good for second in the EIAC and will continue to be a tough out for opponents. Ertel, a .417 hitter last season, also led FC in hits with 30. Burton also returns to the top of the Cats’ lineup after hitting .318 a season ago and will man the outfield for Stang’s defense this season. Butt will be the leadoff man for the Cats this season. In 28 at-bats last year, Butt was a .385 hitter last year for FC and scored eight runs in his 15 games played.
“We lost all three starters in the outfield from a season ago, but I think with Burton, Moizuk, and Adam Barrett, we should be solid out there. We have Ben Becker at first base, and Butt, Harrison, and Ertel will man the middle infield. The third base position is not set yet, but we are trying out sophomore Garrett Kuntz and junior Isaiah Lee to start the season there.”
Stang had this to say about the upcoming season. “We were an out away from winning sectional last season and our goal is to get back there again. There are a lot of good teams in the conference, and it is a battle every game. The first three weeks we will play East Central, Connersville, and Batesville. Those are all solid clubs that have been consistently good over the past few seasons. We think we can compete with them on any night. Our main goal is to finish at the top the conference and to win sectional … we will need to avoid injuries and keep everyone healthy to accomplish that.”
The Cats’ season gets underway with a doubleheader at home against Richmond Saturday, then they take on East Central on the road Monday and host EC next Thursday.