CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The boys are back in town, minus the graduation of perhaps the state's best player last year, though the Nitro baseball team will once again represent the Kanawha Valley's "team to beat."
The Wildcats lost just one senior in standout and reigning Player of the Year Korey Dunbar, and return the rest with eyes set on reaching the state title game after losing 7-4 to Princeton last season in the championship to finish 27-11.
"Everybody knows the expectations and how we do things, and so that can only go to help," Coach Steve Pritchard said of his veteran bunch.
Junior first baseman Dylan Slack will look to provide a bulk of the team's power and run production. Last season, Slack was a second team All-Kanawha Valley selection after hitting .410 with 40 RBI and nine doubles.
"He should be one of the better hitters in the area," Pritchard said. "We're going to rely on him a lot."
Seniors Evan Eich (2B), Eric Keller (3B) and Ethan Clark (CF) return in leadership roles, too. Freshman Matt Jewell will start at catcher, with junior Solomon Shamblin at shortstop.
Junior Tyler Barton will play left field and sophomore Kip Brewer right field when not pitching, Pritchard said.
Barton, a right-hander, throws a cut fastball and changeup, while Brewer is a left-handed pitcher known for his off-speed pitches and location.
Freshmen Jake Bradley, Matt Harrison, Eddie Flores and Jake Williams will also provide innings on the mound.