Richmond has the bats.
The Red Devils have the experience — both in the upperclass and in the underclass of their roster.
They’ve also been fine-tuning the defense and concentrating on throwing strikes from the pitching mound.
“We have the pieces,” said first-year RHS coach Tyler Lairson. “Now we have to put it all together.”
Lairson will try to weave the strands into a winning combination in his first season leading the Red Devils. He is no stranger to the program, or to Richmond baseball. Lairson was a standout at Richmond High School and will enter his sixth season as manager of the Richmond RiverRats of the collegiate Prospect League this summer.
Five seniors look to lead the Red Devils: Matt Morrow, a middle infielder who will play at Wright State, Nate Flannery, Tyler Slawson, Kendal Baker and Nick Thomas.
Baker, an outfielder and pitcher, and Thomas, who will be utilized in pinch-running situations, were both members of the RHS basketball team that won conference and sectional titles. Slawson and Flannery will both also pitch and play utility roles.
Juniors Bryce Austin, Chris Larson, Tanner Marlow and Tyler Ripperger will also contribute, as will sophomores Jordan Christian, Kyler Helms, Parker Holland, Isaak Snyder and Chandler Whalen, and freshman Jake Robertson.
Austin, Christian, Helms and Robertson are part of the pitching staff, with Marlow, Holland and Whalen expected to see time at catcher. Marlow can also play outfield, Whalen is an infielder and Holland is a designated hitter.
Austin, Larson, Helms and Snyder are infielders, and Ripperger an outfielder. Snyder is a transfer from Union County.
“So far we’ve had a great offseason,” Lairson said. “We’re just ready to go.”
Morrow led the Red Devil offense in 2013 as a junior, batting .433 and providing team-highs in hits (39), homers (4), doubles (12), RBIs (32) and slugging percentage (.744).
Christian, who quarterbacked the Richmond football team to a North Central Conference repeat in the fall, was one of the team’s top pitchers his freshman campaign. He was 3-1 with a 3.88 ERA, was second on the team in strikeouts (22) and led the Red Devils in innings pitched with 392⁄3.
“I think our team chemistry is really good right now,” Lairson said.
“I think our strong suit is offense. We need to be able to throw strikes. We need to be able to hold teams.”
Marlow hit .344 last season, and Baker batted .292. Marlow knocked in 17 runs and scored 26, with Baker adding 15 RBIs and 17 runs scored. Marlow also had nine doubles, a triple and a home run.
The Red Devils finished 16-12 last season, and they contended for the top spot in the NCC. RHS finished 8-6 in the conference, with New Castle claiming the NCC championship in its final season as a member of the conference.
It will be a seven-team race in 2014 featuring Richmond, Anderson, Huntington North, Kokomo, Logansport, Marion and Muncie Central.
Lafayette Jeff, Harrison and McCutcheon will join the conference starting next season.
“We have prepared well enough to compete in every game,” Lairson said. “We would like to make this a three-peat for the year (NCC titles in football, boys basketball and baseball).”
Richmond last won an NCC baseball championship in 1998. The Red Devils’ last sectional crown — their 29th overall, third most in the state — was in 2011.
RHS has won 12 regional titles and four semistate championships.
The Red Devils open Tuesday at McBride Stadium opposite Wayne County foe Hagerstown at 6 p.m. Richmond will also play host to a doubleheader on Saturday against Eaton (Ohio).
The Bob Haustetter Classic is April 18-19 at McBride, and Richmond plays its NCC opener May 3 at home with a doubleheader against Kokomo.
“The guys are ready, and they want to see the time they’ve put in pay off,” Lairson said. “We’re ready to go.”