Vikings to defend title

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 26, 2000

WILLOW WOOD – Pardon my manners, but would you mind if I would be as offensive as possible?<!—->.

Sunday, March 26, 2000

WILLOW WOOD – Pardon my manners, but would you mind if I would be as offensive as possible?

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Offense is the operative word for the Symmes Valley Vikings as they prepare to defend the Southern Ohio Conference Division I championship they shared with the Green Bobcats last season.

Trying to match, equal, or surpass last year’s 20-4 record and district runners-up award won’t be easy since Jason Lyall is no longer dominating the Vikings lineup.

The All-Ohio standout led the Vikings at the plate and on the mound. Lyall batted .488 with 12 home runs and 63 runs batted in. The District’s Division IV Player of the Year was nearly as dominating as the team’s top pitcher with nearly 100 strikeouts for the second straight year.

Also gone from the lineup is Jeremy Holland who batted just under .400 and designated hitter John Webb who provided some power in the batting order.

"If we’re going to win, we have to play defense. We can’t get into a slugging match," Vikings coach Rusty Webb said. "Concentration will be a key. We can’t have mental letdowns."

The pitching should be a strong suit for the Vikings with the return of junior Justin Myers and senior Anthony Owens, a couple of hard-throwing righthanders.

Myers was 8-1 last season with a 1.59 earned run average and 98 strikeouts. He threw a no-hitter in the district semifinals.

Owens was limited to his mound time last year since he’s the team’s starting catcher, but he has the ability to rack up strikeouts.

"Pitching should be solid as long as we focus on what we’re doing," said Webb.

Rounding out the staff will be senior Adam Corn, sophomore Billy McCarty, and freshman Joseph Patterson.

Owens batted .528 last season with 12 home runs and 50 RBI.

"He’s a heck of a catcher and each year his batting average has gotten better," said Webb.

Speaking of good offense, Myers had big numbers despite batting behind Owens and Lyall. Myers hit .459 with eight homers and 33 RBIs.

"If we had someone on and no outs, he got them in," said Webb.

Corn is a returning starter at first base and Webb said "he has a super glove. He keeps us from having a lot of throwing errors."

Senior Jeff Ralph moves into second base as the starter. Webb has confidence in Ralph’s defensive abilities.

"He’s got a good glove and he has good baseball savvy," said Webb.

Sophomore Josh Robinson will be the backup.

On the left side of the infield will be senior Noah Henson at shortstop and sophomore Eric Holland at third base. Henson is a three-year starter.

"Henson does a super job for us at short and Holland is a very intelligent player," said Webb.

Myers also plays third base along with Patterson.

The outfield has a lot of depth along with experience.

Junior Brad Carpenter begins his third season in center field and Webb said "he has tremendous speed and he’s a tremendous competitor."

Senior Jeremy Copley moves from the infield to right field and Webb said he is making a smooth transition.

"We needed him in the outfield and he has good range and he’s a very steady player," said Webb. "He’s the type of role player every team needs to be successful."

Left field is shaping up to be a battle between senior Jeremy Simpson and sophomore Billy McCarty.

"Both are about the same and bring the same thing to the table," said Webb. "They both have decent speed and give everything they have."

Also in the outfield picture is junior Roger Rossiter, a first-year player Webb said "definitely will help us."

In the SOC, Webb said Portsmouth Clay, Portsmouth Notre Dame, and Green should be top contenders.

Clay and Notre Dame will be pretty good, and you can’t count out Green. They have a great program," Webb said.