NEWTON — Newton battled to a 14-20 record in 2012, and have since lost a number of talented seniors to graduation. Peyton Wyatt, Mark Mammoser, AJ Hyatt and Connor Walters have all moved on, leaving behind a fresh-faced group eager to make their mark in the Little Illini Conference.
"This will be a great chance for a young team to show what they are made of," Eagles' coach Jason Fulton said.
Newton will still have three capable seniors to help the new contributors, starting with senior pitcher Elijah Knepper. The southpaw has already committed to Olney Central College, and should again be one of the top pitchers across central Illinois.
"He's pretty good," Fulton said. "Six-four lefty, throws pretty hard, very good control with a live fastball and sharp breaking ball," Fulton said. "(He's) one of the best pitchers in the area."
Knepper missed all of basketball season with a knee injury, but is working hard to get back to full strength. Fulton expects him to be cleared April 1, and knows the Eagles' success will like be determined by his job on the mound.
"It's going to depend on how much we can ride Knepper," he said. "If he struggles, we will probably struggle."
Seniors Dylan Davidson and Derek Schackmann will also see time on the mound. Davidson, who is coming off a stellar winter season in which he earned honorable mention IBCA All-State honors in basketball, will use his superb athleticism to track down fly balls in center field when he is not on the mound. Schackmann figures to be used plenty in the outfield as well.
A trio of juniors will give Fulton five strong arms to turn toward in total with Tanner Shull, Allen Taylor and Kyle Woods all logging innings at pitcher. Shull gives the Eagles a little more experience on the mound after performing as one of Newton's top pitchers last spring, and will hold down the third base position when he's not tossing fastballs. Taylor will also see time in the outfield.