OAK HILL — The last time Oak Hill took the field in 2019, it lost 4-3 to Wellston in a Division III sectional final.
The result wasn’t just a loss, it was also nine seniors graduating from the program. Then the pandemic meant losing two of its three returning starters.
So the Oaks are literally rebuilding a program mostly with players who have never played an inning of varsity baseball, nor JV.
“It’s definitely a challenge ahead of us, but we’re looking forward to it,” Oak Hill coach Tim Sowers said. “This sort of gives us a chance to rebuild the program and do things how we want to with a young group who we are high on.”
Landon Hines is the only starting player who has any varsity experience. He batted .232 as a sophomore which included 16 hits, three doubles and six RBIs.
Him alongside seniors Flint Barger, Ethan Sickles and Dylan Venegas are tasked as the guys who will led the team alongside filling some infield and outfield duties at points.
“We put together a pretty solid season two years ago, and I’ve been just passing down as much knowledge as possible to the guys,” Hines said. “We have a long way to go and as the lone guy with varsity experience, it put pressure on me to step up as a leader so I’m looking forward to it.”
Aidan Hall, Isaiah Needham, Nate Clutters and Rylan Sams fill out the infield alongside those four seniors.
Braylon Howell, Gavin Howell, Nick Swisher, Braylon Whitt, Mason Davis, and Drake Davis will all see action in the outfield.
“This is the fastest outfield I think Oak Hill has had since probably the 2013 season,” Sowers said. “We’re not hiding guy out there. They have a lot of speed, cover the ground very well. It’s a lot of young guys, but they’re buying into the team culture and that’s where we’re seeing the biggest area of growth.”
There’s good things and bad things about having as young of a team as Oak Hill does.
The growing pains will undoubtedly be there, and certain situational things can cause some confusion. But also at the same point, there’s a level of mystery which can play into their favor because no one knows what to expect.
It’s a double edge sword, but either way, Oak Hill is taking that sword and swinging for the fences.
“We’re attacking each game one at a time, no matter who it is,” Hines said. “We set a goal this year to win 21 games and I believe in us as a team that we can do it. Beating Wheelersburg, Minford and Waverly is a challenge but it’s not impossible. We can do it. I saw us do it two years ago, no reason to believe we can’t do it again.”