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Reaching for more

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Southwestern freshman Christian DeArmitt leaps for a ball in a game this season. DeArmitt is one of nine freshmenon the Spartans' roster.
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Southwestern sophomore Austin Blocher stretches for a ball at first base in a game this season. The Spartans have high hopes in a new campaign after winning 11 games last year.

By KRIS MILLS - kmills@shelbynews.com

Chris Ingels and Noah Stuckey had to dig deep. According to some research, winning 10 or more games doesn’t happen often for the Southwestern baseball program.

The Spartans finished last season 11-15, and according to Ingels, it was Southwestern’s best season in years. He said baseball records and statistics at the school have not been kept over time, though.

“Coach Stuckey and I went through all the year books and tried to find the record of each year,” Ingels said. “Some of them were missing. But what we could find, last year was the first year since 1976 that Southwestern had double-digit wins. It was also the last time they had a winning record.”

With two All-Mid-Hoosier Conference selections returning -- mixed with nine talented freshmen -- Ingels is confident his squad can improve on last season's mark. Southwestern is currently 2-2 and has proven it can hit up and down the order.

Ross McNeely, Cameron Carroll, Brandon Stubblefield and Eric Emerick are the four seniors tasked with leading this year’s group. Carroll was an all-conference member as a sophomore and junior and hit .429 last year with nine doubles and 17 RBIs.

“We have a lot of depth,” Ingels said, who is in his fifth season with the team. “Last year, it seemed like we were always scrambling to get a lineup. This year, we have 13 or 14 guys who I am comfortable playing and can play well. I think having some continuity (in the program) has helped.”

McNeely is an athletic center fielder and hit .286 last year. Stubblefield, who is a four-year pitcher at the school, was limited last year but is expected to contribute greatly on the mound this season.

The junior class has one player in Ryan Crosby, while the sophomore class includes Austin Blocher, Anthony Atwood and Will Doty. The rest (nine) are rookies. However, all nine played on the junior high team last year. Anick Hartsell leads off and plays shortstop, while Christian DeArmitt has started at first base. Ethan Wendling has been the team's designated hitter.

Atwood was also named all-conference last year as a freshman. He will be the team’s ace on the mound and finished his rookie campaign with a .308 batting average.

“(Atwood) is hitting second this year and had two of our four conference wins last year,” Ingels said. “Doty (third base) hit .321 last year with eight doubles and 18 RBIs. He and Blocher will also pitch.”

The team earned its first two wins of the season over South Decatur last week. On Tuesday, the Spartans fell to Oldenburg 12-9 but scored seven runs in just two innings -- showing their offensive firepower.

“Our first week we hit really well,” Ingels said. “Our pitchers also threw really well. Our defense only had one error in the South Decatur games. I am really happy with how we have played.”

Southwestern returns to MHC play today at Waldron. The team will host the Mohawks Friday.

Kris Mills is the Sports editor of the Shelbyville News. Follow Kris on Twitter @KrisMills37.