With more experience under their belt, Owensboro baseball is looking to flip the script this season and find themselves competing for a deep postseason run in the 9th District and 3rd Region Tournaments.
The Red Devils are entering the second season of the Jacob Fiorella era, as the team went 13-17 overall and 0-7 in district play with a first-round exit to eventual 3rd Region Champions Owensboro Catholic ending their season. Owensboro remains a young team coming into this season with Connor Hallmark (.373 batting average) being the lone senior on the team, but got plenty of experience under a number of players belt’s last season.
“We return virtually everyone from last season which is fantastic when trying to establish and build upon our culture,” Fiorella said. “The expectation is that our guys are ready to perform at a higher level more consistently.”
Some of those returning include the twin standouts in freshman catcher Elijah (.468 batting average, six home runs) and shortstop/pitcher Evan Hampton (.310 batting average), who put up strong numbers as eighth graders and everyday starters for the team. They’ll also be joined in the lineup by the team’s RBI leader from a year ago in sophomore Blake Kimbrell (.300 batting average, 29 RBI’s) and pitcher/outfielder Caden Ray (.326 batting average).
Ray started nine of 10 games on the bump last season, as he’ll have arms such as junior Kaleb Ashley, sophomore Will Rickard and sophomore Trevor DeLacey joining him to take on the responsibilities on the mound. Owensboro will also see more of some familiar faces after last year, as Fiorella expects some of the underclassmen to take on bigger roles this season.
“We have a couple of 8th graders who were on the varsity roster last year and should see a larger role,” Fiorella said. “Ty Ashley in the outfield/on the mound and Gunnar Hendricks behind the plate. Gunnar earned some time last year, but we expect that role to continue increasing. Jeremiah Torrence is a freshman who also is new to the varsity roster.”
Fiorell and the coaching staff have high expectations for their players and team this season, as they are pushing to be contenders in the 9th District and earn a regional berth for the first time since 2019. One of the steps to take in doing that is improving on the offensive side of things, changing their plate approach from a year ago.
“Offensively we’re working to increase our quality at-bat percentage,” Fiorella said. “I think with experience gained last year, that should come naturally and will be exacerbated by our approach to offensive work in practices.”
They’ll look to waste as little pitches as possible at the plate this season to put pressure on opposing pitchers, while hoping to shore things up defensively to give themselves the best chance to come away with a win day in and day out.
“Offensively we need to apply pressure on defenses by cutting down on strikeouts and having a strong running game on the basepaths,” Fiorella said. “Defensively we need to be really good with routine plays.”
The Red Devils will get their first chance to see what they have in store for this season on Thursday, hitting the road to take on Muhlenberg County at 6 p.m.