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Pitching holds key for Fighting Tigers

What difference can a year make? Ironton Fighting Tigers coach Mark Lewis hopes a lot.

Monday, March 26, 2001

What difference can a year make? Ironton Fighting Tigers coach Mark Lewis hopes a lot.

Ironton was 13-9 last season with a team that featured just three seniors starters: Jon Sites, Jimmy Peyton, and Clark Cooper. Sites and Cooper were all-district.

Sites, who hit .411, was a three-year starter at catcher and his loss on the field as well as a leader will be hard to fill.

But the biggest concern for Lewis is the pitching staff. The young arms produced a 4.51 earned run average and only 105 strikeouts versus 79 walks.

"Pitching is the key to any team, and we were solid but we didn’t have a dominating pitcher last year," said Lewis. "Hopefully with a year of experience under our belts we’ll be a stronger team in that department."

Junior Chad Parker was the team’s ace with a 4-1 record and 42 strikeouts in 58 innings. Junior Mark Mains, a lefthander, was 2-4 but had a 3.63 ERA to lead the starters.

Senior Josh Harmon was 2-2 in just 19.1 innings of work and sophomore Greg Mountain went 3-2 in the same number of innings.

Also expected to get a look on the mound will be sophomore Matt White and freshman Josh Sands.

"We’ll have some pitching depth, but I don’t know how good we’ll be until we start to play. If the pitching comes around, we’ll be successful," said Lewis.

"Chad had a good year last season and we think he’s going to be better. Mark Mains proved to be a consistent pitcher, and we want to use Harmon more. We’re hoping our younger kids will step up and do the job when needed."

Junior Drew Mains, a .302 hitter, returns to the lineup at shortstop. Sands will take over at second base allowing Matt Johnson, who played second base last year, to move to the outfield where Ironton lost Peyton.

Harmon was one of the area’s top defensive outfielders last season and he is back in center. Harmon was 11-of-11 in stolen base attempts and led the team with 25 runs batted in.

"We should be good up the middle, and we’re looking for Harmon to really step it up," said Lewis.

When he’s not pitching, Parker will have a spot in the lineup thanks to his bat. Parker hit .380 last year with a team-high five home runs and seven doubles plus 20 RBI.

Parker will share first base duties with sophomore Tyler Whaley who should provide some power to the lineup. Whaley will fill in at first when Parker pitches and probably get some work as a designated hitter.

Mark Mains hit .306 last year playing left field, but he shifts to right this season.

Mountain and White split duties at third base last year. White, who posted a .343 average, will be at third again while Mountain takes over the catching duties.

Junior Chuck Murnahan, who missed last season with an injury, will be the backup at third base and behind the plate. He also gives Ironton another pitcher if he can remain healthy.

"Murnahan will be our swing player," said Lewis. "Mountain’s mechanics have improved and his arm is stronger. He’ll do a pretty solid job."

Sophomore Matt Spears could play some at second base and allow Drew Mains to pitch with Sands filling in at shortstop. Lewis also has solid bats off the bench with Tim McKnight and Bryan Rowe.

"McKnight could play some in the outfield. He and Rowe both hit the ball pretty well," said Lewis. "We’ll have to juggle our lineup until we find the right people. We have some experience, but we’re still young."