Ironton searches for OFs

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 3, 2006

Whatever Ironton Fighting Tigers head coach Mark Lewis gets out of his team may hinge on his outfield.

Ironton is missing Patrick Kouns and Ryan Walker from its outfield and Lewis has a lot of inexperienced replacements awaiting a call to arms.

“One area of concern is the outfield. We have to replace about everyone and the guys who have played are just coming off of basketball,” Lewis said.

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J.J. Johnson played mostly in a defensive role last season and figures to be one of the outfielders. Other candidates are Troy Allen, Darius Lewis, Jay Rudmann, Todd Eaches and T.J. Keith.

“We moved Allen from the infield to the outfield late last season. T.J. has a little stronger arm so we may play him in center,” coach Lewis said. “Lewis hasn’t played for several years. Johnson has the most experience.”

“Rudmann has some ability so we’re giving him a look and Eaches has some good speed.”

While the outfield is unsettled, the infield should be solid.

Dustin Preston, a three-year starter, is back at catcher but he has been sidelined with a sore shoulder forcing Tanner Reed into service.

“We’re expecting Preston to have a solid season, but with him out Reed has been getting the work and he’s looked pretty good,” Lewis said. “Preston can still DH if he can’t throw. He’s the big bat in our lineup.”

The loss of Josh Adkins takes away some versatility in the infield since Adkins could play third base or shortstop.

With Chad Miller at shortstop and Chris Rakes at second base, Ironton is strong up the middle. Dennis Gagai will play first base but he will play any of the four infield positions depending on who is pitching.

Trevor Allen will take over at third base with Andy Wheeler or Greg Kettle getting some playing time at first base when Gagai isn’t there.

“(Trevor) Allen is an unknown since he didn’t play last year but he has some athletic ability,” coach Lewis said. “I expect Miller to step up and be a key player and Dennis is just a good athlete who can play any position on

the field.

“Rakes is bigger and stronger and so is Keith. Football helped both of them.”

Regardless of who the position players are, pitching is always the key for any team and Ironton is no different.

Greg Linn led the team was 5-1 and had a 2.79 earned run average. He’s now a West Virginia Tech. Adkins was 1-1 and struck out 41 in 26 innings.

Miller and Gagai figure to the top two pitchers on the staff with Rakes, Keith, Kettle and Seth Kuehne expected to get plenty of work.

Gagai was 2-2 but had a sparkling 2.19 ERA and walked just five batters in 25.2 innings. Miller was 4-1 with 33 strikeouts in 34 innings and a 2.68 ERA.