By BRADEN LAYER
---- — DIETERICH — The ice machine at Dieterich High School should get its fair share of use this spring. With a limited roster of 16 players, and four starting pitchers, coach Jamie VanScyoc’s staff will surely have some sore shoulders during the lengthy season ahead.
VanScyoc, in his ninth season at the helm, says those that do take the mound should be prepared to last.
“Our pitchers are going to have to go deep in games,” he said. “That’s the one thing we are going to have to count on, that those kids can give me five or six strong innings.”
Junior Tanner Traub will take over as the number one hurler, and the talented pitcher has accumulated plenty of experience thus far. A starter since he first walked the halls of Dieterich High School as a freshman, Traub has steadily shown improvement, earning a spot on the All-National Trail Conference team this fall. When he’s not pitching, Traub will position himself at shortstop.
Joining him in the rotation is senior Brandon Westjohn, a strong-armed lefty that will also see time at first base. VanScyoc says Westjohn has already displayed much promise.
“He’s been a starter the last couple years and has seen some innings on the mound,” VanScyoc said. “He really stepped up in the fall.”
Rounding out the rotation are junior Jake Bohnhoff, who will split time at left field, and sophomore Alex Bohnhoff, who will assume shortstop duties when Traub is on the mound. The pair will not surprise any batter with ridiculous speed when they’re pitching, but VanScyoc says the two have excellent ball control.
“Jake is accurate, he’s around the plate and throws a lot of strikes. He tries to mix up speeds a lot and keep guys off balance,” VanScyoc said. “Alex is another starter, throws a lot of strikes and does a really nice job on the mound.”
The pressure for the Movin’ Maroons’ foursome to perform at a high level only increases with the insertion of a freshman behind the plate. Trenton Poe may be a year removed from eighth-grade ball, but VanScyoc said the newcomer has gone above and beyond all expectations at catcher.
“He put the time into it,” VanScyoc said. “He really worked at it during the summer, we worked with him a lot during the fall. From start to finish he made huge improvements, huge strides. I’ve been impressed with how much he has really put into it.”
VanScyoc has held open tryouts this offseason, looking for capable closers to pitch a few innings when relief is inevitably needed. All members of Dieterich’s 16-man squad have taken turns on the mound, as VanScyoc is prepared to leave no stone unturned to milk a couple extra innings.
“We battle numbers all the time,” he said, “but we make the most of it. We’ve got three or four other kids who can throw, they’re going to need to give me one inning one day and another on another day.”
The positive attributes of senior leadership can go a long way with a thin roster like Dieterich’s, and that’s exactly why VanScyoc is placing such importance on his upperclassmen to help move the team along. Westjohn, Chris Lidy and Garrett Einhorn will all need to take this team under their wings in order for the Maroons to improve upon the fall’s 7-13 record.
“(They) really need to step up and provide some leadership to this team,” VanScyoc said.
While Westjohn’s presence will undoubtedly be felt on the mound and at first, all three will make a strong impact at the plate. The southpaw slinger will bat cleanup for Dieterich, and VanScyoc says that even though a good deal of the team’s success hinges on his pitchers, Westjohn’s skills with his bat could make all the difference.
“He can hit for power,” VanScyoc said. “That’s the leadership I’m looking for out of him, to get it done at the plate.”
Lidy, a fast center fielder, will bat fifth for the Maroons. Though VanScyoc says his team doesn’t have a lot of power bats, Lidy should be another clear exception.
“When he hits it,” VanScyoc said. “he can really hit it. But he’s also not a one-dimensional hitter. He can hit to all fields.”
Einhorn, the Maroons’ sturdy third baseman, figures to bat sixth for Dieterich. The senior has a knack for getting on base, and possesses an unquestioned team-first attitude at the plate.
“He doesn’t try to do anything outside of his capabilities,” VanScyoc said. “If that means getting hit by a pitch, he’ll step in and get hit. He stays within himself. He’s just the type of kid that will do whatever it takes.”
Dieterich had troubles generating runs during the fall season, stumbling out of the gates for a 1-10 record. For VanScyoc, that can be attributed to a lack of patience in the batter’s box.
“We’re going to have to make a better effort at the plate this spring,” VanScyoc said. “We could have been more aggressive in the fall. When we won six of our last nine we were aggressive, hitting our pitches instead of the pitcher’s pitch. Once kids got on board with what we were trying to do, things started to take off. We have to continue to take that approach.”
The skipper says starting the game out strong will pay dividends in 2013, and leadoff man Alex Bohnhoff will give the Maroons a decent chance to start with a man on base. Jake Bohnhoff will bat second, and his hitting talents have VanScyoc excited for the front of his lineup.
“He’s very good with the bat,” VanScyoc said. “He can bunt, he’s a good contact hitter. There are a lot of possibilities with him.”
Dieterich plans to feature a variety of offensive skill sets this season with the Maroons’ solid balance. Due to a roster that is capable of playing small ball and going deep, VanScyoc says he is looking at all the possibilities to generate the most amount of runs for his team.
“We’ve got a bunch of kids that are good contact hitters and can spray it all over the field,” he said. “Some kids can lay bunts down too, we’re going to take a look at all facets of the game, there isn’t one thing that we’re not going to use. We’re going to have to try different things to get runs on the board.”
Hopefully, the Movin’ Maroons will get these runs early, as VanScyoc said his team is looking to be the aggressor in early stages of games.
“We need to get some runs on the board early,” VanScyoc said, “and get the tone set for us instead of letting the other team set the tone.”
Dieterich will look to first set the tone on March 19 when the Maroons take on Oblong. First pitch is set for 4:30 p.m.
Braden Layer can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 123, or at email@example.com