Many questions surrounded the Seton Catholic baseball team entering the 2014 season.
* How would the Cardinals overcome the loss of four foundation seniors?
* Where would the program head after its first head coach stepped down?
* Would the Cardinals even have enough players to field a team?
* How would the Cardinals overcome the limited pitching experience?
Seton has found ways.
Coach Jason Howard left the program with high expectations after two sectional titles in its first six years as a varsity sport.
New coach Jake Carr started right where Howard left off, bringing in high expectations after playing for Richmond High School, Earlham College and the Richmond RiverRats.
“Guys that we have on the team now have been told that they weren’t good enough and losing the players that we had last year they weren’t going to have the success they had this year,” Carr said. “I think the biggest thing is just for those guys to understand the hard work they’ve put in is paying off.”
For a second straight year, and third time in four years, the Cardinals are headed to the Class A regional.
Seton repeated as IHSAA Class A Sectional 56 champion, and the Cardinals (16-9) travel Saturday to Carroll (Flora) to face Monroe Central (15-11) in the 10 a.m. regional tournament.
No. 1-ranked Frontier (25-5) plays No. 5 Rockville (15-3) in the 12:30 p.m. semifinal, with the regional title game scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Cost is $6 per session or $9 for all sessions.
“It was awesome. I think we have a gritty team, is the word I’ve been using,” Carr said. “Kids are just competing every single time, they don’t give up on themselves ever.”
That statement was put to test during the sectional title game when Seton trailed Tri High 7-1 in the early innings.
But the Cardinals battled back, scoring six times in the bottom of the fifth inning before play was suspended due to rain.
Tri regained the lead when the game resumed Tuesday, but Craig Heyob scored the tying run on an error, before driving in sophomore Cliff Dickman with a single in the bottom of the eighth inning.
“We just kept on battling back,” Carr said. “It would be really easy to go down 7-1, into the fifth inning and just quit, but the kids that we have, they were confident that we were going to break through.
” … We worked all year that we’re going to have good at-bats, quality at-bats, stayed disciplined as hitters, and it was nice to see that there was no panic in those guys.”
Senior Brady Gray had the most pitching experience after super senior Adam Schroeder graduated last year.
Tyler Dolesh, Adam Dolesh, Heyob, A.J. Reimsnyder and Rhett Butler are also seniors, with Butler joining the team this year for the first time.
Colten Pipenger and Dickman are sophomores and Vincent Mosey and Jake Leverton are freshmen.
And though Gray started the season with the most pitching experience, Carr said he now has seven players who can be counted on to pitch.
“We’ve tried to make the most out of our pitching staff, and it’s been a testament to the coaching that we have,” Carr said. “We found out that seven out of our 10 guys are pitchers for us. Brady’s been the lead of that, but then we got Tyler and Adam Dolesh, those two and Craig (Heyob) and Vinny Mosey — it’s been, really, a team effort on the mound.”
Carr said the Cardinals defeated Monroe Central 6-2 earlier this season, but the Golden Bears did not face Gray.
The regional champion advances to the June 14 semistate at Kokomo or Plymouth. The state championships are June 20-21.
Carr is joined on the coaching staff by his brother Kevin Carr, who played for Richmond, Earlham and the Richmond Roosters of the Frontier League, and his father Frank Carr, who coached baseball and football at Earlham and was the athletic director, along with Rod Mattix.
“Jason (Howard), I shook hands with him (Tuesday) as we won and I thanked him for leaving me with some good players,” Jake Carr said. “He kind of set it up for me to step in and continue what they had started. … The program is in a good place and we’re just fortunate, it’s a program that hasn’t been around too long and has had some success early on.
” … I think that we’re moving forward and we’ll see this weekend if we can keep playing another week.”