WHEELING - Wheeling Central baseball coach Jimbo Wodusky will field a pool of young players who are generating a lot of excitement on the mound and at the plate this season.
"This is one of the most exciting years simply because of the talent," Wodusky said. "It's just whether they develop quick enough to make some noise this year. These young kids are showing a lot of excitement. They're ready to go and willing to listen and learn."
Wodusky said he will be depending on three returning seniors - C.J. Burch, Derek Yocke and Mario Peroni - to lead the younger players to a run for an OVAC crown and a bid down state.
Burch, who saw a good deal of playing time last year, will make his second year start at center field.
Yocke will begin his third year as starting catcher and Peroni will alternate between the mound and playing first base.
Stepping up behind the seniors are junior Nate Bakaitis, who has been a starter since his freshman year. Wodusky touts Bakaitis as his "best all-around player" who is versatile enough to rotate in the field.
"Nate will be the brunt of the rotation. I think he can play wherever we will need him."
Wodusky said Bakaitis will join Peroni pitching.
"They will mix it up depending on who is rested, who we are playing and who my instinct tells me is going to be good that day," Wodusky said.
This season's team will have some big shoes to fill in Nick Naumann, who was an all-state honorable mention last season and has continued his baseball career at West Liberty University. Wodusky said he won a lot of big games for Central last year.
Brian Campbell, a sophomore, led the team in hitting last year and is described as a "very rare talent" developing onto the varsity roster.
Shortstop Jefferson Gwyn is injured but has been practicing and is expected to play while sophomore Anthony Gentile will play shortstop or second base.
At third base, Wodusky is looking to Brian Shaw and Matt Gruber, both sophomores. Brian Campbell and Kevin Keane, also sophomores, will be in the outfield along with juniors John McLaughlin, Joe Minor and J.D. Griffith. Griffith also may serve as backup catcher.
"We're high on Tyler Riedel, a freshman, as a starter in the outfield. He caught my eye on the first day of practice," Wodusky said. "We also have Zach McAbee, a freshman, a very good first baseman."
Wodusky, who also coaches football at Central, has been a part of the baseball coaching staff for 21 years, serving as head coach for 10 years. He said he has numerous volunteers who help the team including assistants Buck Droginske, Keith Wodusky, Rick Szeligo, and Jamey Conlon, who also coaches the junior varsity team. He said he has many graduates who offer their time and talent to the team.