Little Miami’s Alec Robinette knocks down a ground ball during the game against the Harrison Wildcats. Harrison defeated Little Miami 5-0 Wednesday, April 1, 2015, at Little Miami High School.
Here’s a riddle.
How do you graduate nine seniors from back-to-back league-championship teams and improve?
The answer is you don’t. But the Harrison High School baseball team intends to defy logic this spring by doing just that.
“We feel like we’re stronger this year than we were last year,” said head coach Shawn Sowders. “The guys we have coming back can fill the spots amply.
This is no knock on last year’s seniors. It speaks to the talent level of the returning Wildcat players. Sowders is a reliable source, too. He’s starting his 33rd year in the Harrison program – four as a player, 22 as an assistant and seven as head coach. He’s seen but two losing seasons from the Wildcats in that span.
“It’s a baseball community,” Sowders said. “We’ve got a great Little League group, Harrison Junior Baseball. We’ve just got a lot of kids that play baseball.
“Baseball’s been a big tradition down here. The success has been there.”
Senior Michael Knollman, a four-year starter, fifth-generation farmer and defending Southwest Ohio Conference Player of the Year, attributes much of the program’s success to work ethic.
“We just try to work harder than pretty much everyone we play against,” Knollman said.
“As far as I can remember I’ve always been playing. I was always throwing a baseball, hitting a baseball.”
Knollman hit .411 last year, and he also leads what should be a dominant Wildcat pitching staff, joining all-leaguers, Darien Smith and Kyle DiPucchio, and hard-throwing brothers, Austin and Evan Smith. Seniors Gage Bley and Jake Weber also are returning starters.
Mitch Hogue (shortstop), Tylyn James (centerfield) and Mason Brunner (catcher) were all-conference selections as sophomores.
“They’re seasoned,” Sowders said. They’re not your typical juniors that haven’t played varsity baseball before.”
The team will spend spring break enjoying the 80-degree weather at the Panama City (Fla.) Beach Bash – a reward of sorts, according to Sowder, for the team’s offseason conditioning work in the weight room.
“This is a fun group to show up to the baseball field with,” Sowders said. “They just love baseball.”