Whitko vets target team first

   There is a glaring absence from the Whitko baseball program when it comes to the postseason. The   Wildcats have been there playing for a sectional championship but never been able to take home the hardware to South Whitley.
   The 2011 Wildcats hope to change that with a returning core of seniors bunched with a talented newcomer.
   Goals have been set by the Wildcats and head coach Erik Hisner says its time to achieve them.
   “We had a team meeting last Tuesday and set goals,” Hisner said. “Two of our goals are having a winning record and win our school’s first sectional championship.”
   In five seasons with Whitko, Hisner stands with a record of 34-83. Of all those teams he’s coached, Hisner believes the chemistry of this team could make them the best yet.
   “From an ability standpoint our goals are very attainable,” Hisner noted. “I feel really good about the group of guys we have. I think one of our strengths is our chemistry and I think that will play a factor.”
   At the end of last season, the Wildcats first order of business was to make up the innings lost by graduating seniors Kurt Boggs, Tyler Linn and Trevor Sleighter.
   Together the trio threw for 94.67 innings with Boggs carrying the load on the mound with 58.67 of his own.
   “We lost some innings but we do have some guys with experience,” Hisner commented.
   The Wildcats get back their starting pitcher from sectional in sophomore Alex Stoddard.
   The 6-foot, 2-inch frame of Stoddard will see a lot of innings according to Hisner.
   “Alex Stoddard will probably be our No. 1,” Hisner noted. “He’s only a sophomore but he’s been on the football and basketball teams so he knows how to deal with pressure.”
   Stoddard pitched 29 innings last season striking out 19 batters with a breaking ball that earned him a 3.14 ERA.
   Leading the bats are four-year varsity letter winners Alex Winger and Nathan Sherrard.
   Winger, shortstop for the ’Cats, comes back with 16 RBI, ranking highest of any returning player.
   Sherrard controls the outfield with an on-base percentage of .476.
   Joining the roster this season is a lone freshman in Ethan Nicodemus. The young bat comes into the infield fighting for a starting role and high praise from his coach.
   “He played with us last summer and hit the ball real well,” Hisner said. “He really has a passion and love for the game. We anticipate him helping out the varsity this year.”
   Right out of the gates, Whitko gets a test Monday with the state’s top team in class 3A No. 1 New Haven. The Wildcats upset the Bulldogs last season.