BLOOMDALE — Derek Meyer takes over for longtime Elmwood baseball coach Kyle Reiser after Meyer spent six years as an assistant.
Meyer, who was also a freshman and junior varsity coach at Toledo Whitmer for eight years, takes the helm after the Royals finished 6-16 overall and 4-9 in the Northern Buckeye Conference last year.
Returning lettermen include four seniors, shortstop Mason Mossbarger, third baseman Allen Sterling, center fielder Lex Voska, and pitcher Hayden Wickard, and two juniors, pitcher Andrew Holland and first baseman and pitcher Jimmie Palmer.
Last year, Voska (.377 BA) was a second team All-NBC selection and Mossbarger (.356) and Holland (.281) were honorable mention.
Palmer returns after batting .241 with three doubles, and as a pitcher he had a 3.85 ERA with 19 strikeouts. Wickard had 2.14 strikeouts per innings on the mound, finishing with 40.
Meyer expects Mossbarger, Holland and Allen Sterling to lead the Royals at the plate, Holland, Wickard and Palmer to be the top hurlers, and top fielders include Voska, Mossbarger and Mason Oliver.
In addition, Meyer says sophomore catcher Colton Bradford is a “smart ballplayer with a reliable bat,” and junior outfielder and designated hitter Luke Ambruster “has worked this offseason to improve his bat.”
During Elmwood’s final year in the NBC before moving to the Blanchard Valley Conference next fall, Meyer admits it will be a challenge for the Royals to bring home any league hardware this year.
“The NBC will be tough once again this year with three or four teams vying for the top spot,” Meyer said.
“Our strength will be our pitching and team chemistry. We have a group of young men that love the game of baseball and have worked hard to get better.
“We are looking to take a step forward this year and win the close games that we haven’t in the last couple.”
Elmwood opened the season with two losses, falling to future BVC opponent McComb, 8-7, and to Toledo Whitmer, 19-9.
In the season opener at McComb on Tuesday, Mossbarger had a double and scored two runs and Voska was 2-for-2 with an RBI and scored twice.
On the mound, Palmer struck out four, gave up five hits and four earned runs in 4.1 innings. Tanner Shaffer got two outs to close the fifth without allowing a hit or run, and Wickard, who took the loss, struck out two and allowed one hit and the winning run.
For the Panthers, Blake Wittenmyer was 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs and Brandon Stutzman had a double and RBI.
On the mound, Blake Holman struck out three, allowed six hits and three earned runs in four innings, Brayden Shoop gave up three earned runs without getting an out, and Camden Glaser got the win after striking out five and allowing two hits and one earned run in three innings.
At Whitmer on Thursday, Elmwood took a 6-5 lead in the top of the third, but gave up 14 runs in a game ended by mercy rule after six innings.
Mossbarger led Elmwood with four base hits and Shaffer took the loss on the mound, striking out three and giving up three earned runs in 2.2 innings.
Sean Doran led Whitmer at the plate with two singles, Joaquin Jantowski had a single and double, and Camden Drabek had two base hits for the Panthers.