Fighting Tigers filling plenty of holes

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 26, 2005

Forget the patches. Ironton coach Mark Lewis is going to need a large bucket of industrial caulk to fill these holes.

Ironton, 14-10 last season and district semifinalists, will be looking to fill a lot of holes in its lineup, especially the pitching staff which lost Josh Sands, Kevin Williams and Nick Collins.

The trio combined for a 10-4 record and 65.1 innings.

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Josh Adkins, Dennis Gagai, Adam Ferguson, Greg Linn and Chad Miller will comprise the bulk of the pitching staff. Lewis thinks it can be a solid group.

"We lost 10 of our 14 wins, so pitching, like always, is a concern," Lewis said. "Gagai won't be ready for awhile, and Adkins will be out for a couple of weeks. We'll be a work in progress. We're hoping to find the right combination as the season goes along, but it's a short season."

Linn and Adkins combined for 50.1 innings while Gagai was 2-0 in 25 innings with a 1.12 earned run average.

Gagai, Linn, Miller, outfielders Patrick Kouns and Brigham Waginger, and infielder T.J. Keith were all members of the basketball team that just finished its season last week in the state tournament.

"I'm glad for the basketball team's success, but not having our basketball players out we've had to move people around and we're looking to play some sophomores at least early," Lewis said. "Flexibility is a problem, too. When we make one switch, we'll have to make three."

Ironton's defense lost the key middle positions of shortstop, second base and center field. Miller and Adkins figure to get the bulk of the work at shortstop with Troy Allen or Waginger at second base.

Waginger figures to start in center field or at second. Linn, a big target at 6-foot-5, could take over at first base with Gagai switching to third base or possibly shortstop.

Gagai hit .385 last season with 21 runs batted in.

"A lot of our decisions will be based on who hits the ball. We have to find some offense," Lewis said.

If Waginger is not in center, J.J. Johnson figures to man that position. Kouns will be back in right field after hitting .284 with 19 RBI last season and a pair of home runs.

Ryan Walker, who hit .261 in limited time last season, is expected to be in left field. Keith could get some time in the outfield but may be needed at third base.

Lewis is hoping to use Ferguson at third or first base. Ferguson can also catch along with Tanner Reed.

"Shortstop is the most glaring spot to fill right now. We've got Miller and Gagai and maybe down the road Adkins will be able to help us there," Lewis said.

"The biggest thing with our players is who hits the ball. We have a lot of holes to fill on offense and defense. We just have to find our best nine people and find a place for them to play."

Adkins had a .346 average last year with three homers and 20 RBI.

Behind the plate will again be Dustin Preston who hit .293 with three home runs and 11 RBI last season.

"Preston has looked good in the preseason, but it's still early. He was just a sophomore last year and we're hoping he'll be improved. He's worked hard in the offseason," Lewis said.

Lewis said several young players will get a look including Jeff Waginger at third base and pitcher, Chris Rakes and Greg Kettel in the infield and pitcher, and outfielder T.J. Jewell.