Charleston may have lost seven seniors from last year’s 16-10 team, but the Trojans return eight seniors – including the team’s top hitter.
The Trojans lost batting leader Colin Patterson, who hit .391 last season with 25 hits and 10 doubles. Kendall Pankey, Caydin Reed, and Jeb Vanatta are also graduated.
William Applegate, an All-Apollo first-team shortstop, headlines a strong returning class. Last season in 23 games, Applegate led the team in hits (26), runs batted in (27), and home runs (24). He also hit .388.
With the leadership at the top intact for another season, head coach Daniel Bennett is confident that Charleston can repeat their winning ways.
“William had a great season last year that was capped off by being selected first-team Apollo,” said Bennett. “He is going to be one of the guys we feed off this year offensively and defensively. He is a great ball player, and I am excited to see what he can do this year and move forward.”
Two more seniors return to the infield – Aiden Archibald at first base and Josh Sipes at second base. Archibald had 20 hits in 22 games with a .328 batting average and 14 runs batted in.
“I think going into my second year with the varsity team, the guys understand how we do things and what we expect from them,” said Bennett. “The day after tryouts I spoke with all the seniors and we talked about the leadership we want to see from all eight of our seniors. They are bought in and really working hard in practices and putting in that extra time. “
James Hess returns as a pitcher and will get the nod in the first game of the season. Brett Spour will take on third base duties, while Jacob Morrisey is pegged as the team’s starting catcher.
“Jacob is one of the hardest workers we have on this team and he is a great leader at the catching position,” said Bennett. “Josh Sipes is our returning second baseman and has a tremendous work ethic and we look for him to have a big year for us. James Hess was a force in our lineup last year and will be a centerpiece in our outfield. Aiden Archibald provides a lot of experience at 1st base for us this year and he will also be a centerpiece in our offense.”
The outfield is also deep – Hess, Alec Sellers, Matthew Ebinger, Caiden Pruett, Cody Bell, Clay Johnson, Scott King, Jack Walsh, and Luke Bonstetter.
“These guys are pretty interchangeable so they could all see multiple positions,” said Bennett. “We lost a lot of key players last year and on top of that we lost some great overall kids. The seniors we have this year are more than capable of filling those gaps we lost. We have a few extra pieces that will be key for us this year in Alec Sellers, Matthew Ebinger, Eoin Dahlke, and Caiden Pruett. These guys have put a lot of work in during the offseason and will be key contributors for us as well.”
CHS’s biggest concern might be pitching after five pitchers who threw significant innings graduated. That includes wins leader Connor Woodley, but Bennett pointed out that the Trojans will not be lacking in that department.
“We are going to have a lot of arms able to throw for us this year,” said Bennett. “In the senior group, we have James Hess, William Applegate, Josh Sipes, and Eoin Dahlke. In our junior group, we have Aiden Archibald, Cody Bell, Aiden Collins, Clay Johnson, and Brett Spour. Luke Bonstetter will also be joining the varsity roster as a sophomore. I am comfortable with putting any of these guys on the mound so we will be competitive in every game we play. Jacob Morrisey and Jaydon Hudson have put a lot of time into catching bullpens and working with our pitchers so we should have a pretty good feel between our pitchers and catchers.”
Charleston finished last season tied with Lincoln in the Apollo Conference with a 7-4 record. With Mahomet-Seymour losing their Purdue-bound pitcher to early graduation, it feels that the clear favorite is not at the top anymore and the conference could grind each matchup.
“The goal for this team, as it is every year, is to win the Apollo Conference,” said Bennett. “This will not be an easy task because our conference is loaded with talent. Mahomet to me has to be the favorite with all their returning players, but every Saturday we are going to have two very tough games. We open up the conference at Mattoon and, when Charleston and Mattoon meet up, it is a different ball game. I see Effingham, Mt. Zion, Lincoln, and Taylorville all being tough games. It is going to be an exciting conference to watch this year.”