Heading into the 2017 baseball season, change will be in the air for the Trojans.
After six years, highlighted by three straight trips to the Class 3-2-1A’s state baseball tournament, including a third-place finish in 2010, coach Doug Dick decided to step down.
Enter 2012 HHS graduate Luke Moore, who was instrumental in the Trojans’ heyday from 2009-2011.
In the fall, word reached Moore at Greenville, Ill., that the Trojans were in need of somebody to lead the baseball program.
Since he was transferring back to Tabor to finish schooling, it was definitely something worth looking into and easily secured.
Moore’s not exactly a greenhorn to coaching, as he’s gained experience as an assistant for Greenville football.
“Things are going pretty well right now,” Moore said. “We’re covering the basics. Our first game is next Tuesday, but we’ve got a long way to go still before we’ll be good. ”
Joining Moore will be longtime Hillsboro American Legion coach Lyman Adams.
Outside of 6-7 pitcher Austin Cross, who’s now throwing for Allen County Community College, and Clayton Philpott, the Trojans may have enough experience and skill returning to better their 5-13 record of a year ago.
Moore’s got a unique balance of both newcomers and upperclassmen with players from Peabody joining in to help.
Defensively, the Trojans have experience in both the infield and outfield with Jacob Funk, Brayden Vogt, Brooks Gardner, and Jorge Hanchu back.
At 6-5, Funk’s height will come in handy for first base, while freshman Caleb Potucek and Peabody’s Bryant Young will compete for second base.
Senior Brayden Vogt is a solid asset at shortstop with Gardner and Hanschu splitting time both behind the mound and at third base.
Others battling to see action in the infield are newcomer Avery Unruh at second and freshman Jaxton Tracy, who may serve as a utility player.
The outfield is athletic, fast, and experienced with Tyson Reimer, Kaden Kleiner, and Ben Koop manning.
The Peabody trio of Austin Burke, Marcus Sanders, and Chance Elliot will provide depth in the outfield.
The state threw pitching a curve ball this year, placing a 105-pitch limit on teams’ rotations and possibly creating difficulties.
“We’re going to have a lot of guys throwing,” said Moore. “If we’d only have one double header a week, we’d be OK, but if one of my starters throws 50-60 in an inning and a half, we’re digging into our lineup. That’s definitely a problem and my biggest concern.
“If we can get three to four innings out of our starters, I think we’ll be OK, but it just puts us in a bit of a bind.”
Kleiner, Vogt, and Hanschu are the starters, with Unruh and Tracy in the mix as well.
Offensively, the Trojans should be improved hitting while featuring speed and aggression on the base paths.
Moore’s likely to stack his best hitters in the one-through-five holes with Gardner, Vogt, Kleiner, and Koop showing the most progression so far.
“If we can get consistency from one-through-four or five and have the bottom of the order give us a bit of production, that’ll be good,” he said.
The Trojans’ schedule will again be difficult as usual, with five Class 4A teams appearing.
Larned jumped up after qualifying for state a year ago while Pratt was also a qualifier.
Nickerson and Haven are traditionally strong teams and Smoky Valley hasn’t exactly been a cakewalk for Hillsboro lately, either.
The Trojans’ season gets underway Tuesday with a doubleheader at Nickerson.