By Will Willems
DOVER — Western Boone came close to winning its first sectional since 1983 last year, advancing to the sectional final and leading midway through before falling to Frankfort.
If they are going to take that final step this year, it will be with a different coach in charge. Former Lebanon player Jordan Klinedinst takes over the reigns this year after serving as the JV coach at Zionsville the past couple of years.
“It is a different atmosphere,” Klinedinst said. “They had a good coach the past couple of years, but he had more of a strict atmosphere. I am a little more laid back and that adjustment has been easy for them. We have a lot more kids this year, which has been big for all the kids. Being in the building has helped them too. They have a coach now who can be around them all day.”
So far the preparations for the season have been going well.
Klinedinst said he wasn’t sure what he was going to have coming into it, but has been impressed with what he has seen.
“I am very excited,” Klinedinst said. “We have a very good junior class that is deep. I only knew a couple kids coming in, and I have been really impressed with their camaraderie. They have been together for a while, had some success late in the season last year, we have some deep pitching and defensively we don’t have any holes.”
Klinedinst isn’t shying away from high expectations in his first year.
He wants to compete for championships right away.
“Right now our goal is to win conference and sectionals,” Klinedinst said. “We are going to set high goals for ourselves. When we get into the season, we will have smaller short-term goals, but we have a strong team. We didn’t lose too many players. We lost our big arm, but we have a lot of pitching depth, so I think we will be OK.”
The Stars lost Nathaniel Bye to graduation. He led the team in batting and pitching last year.
But the rest of the roster remains intact. John Bromberek hit .323 with 21 hits and a team-high 15 RBIs last year. He added three doubles.
Zach Prickett is the top returner pitching wise. He pitched 30.1 innings, with a 5.31 ERA and struck out 15. Lance Oldham will also be looked up for his hitting (.267, 12 RBIs) and pitching.
They are just a few of several key players coming back for the Stars.
“Zach Prickett as a senior has been a leader,” Klinedinst said. “It was kind of his role to step into and he has done it well. We have a lot of guys who do a great job of leading by example — John Bromberek and Felix Martinez are a couple of them. They work hard, do what they are supposed to do and it makes everyone else do the right thing.”
With so many returners in the starting line-up with multiple years of varsity baseball experience, there won’t be many players learning new positions for the Stars.
That can be an advantage, Klinedinst said.
“Pitching depth is what we are going to rely on, but defensively, I don’t think that we have any holes,” Klinedinst said. “We should be pretty strong there. We have fast guys in the outfield and a lot of returners in the infield. I think pitching and defensively we will be strong, the big question mark will be how do we do at the plate.”
Western Boone has never won a conference baseball title.
Klinedinst said that he hopes that the victory over Crawfordsville last year in the sectional shows the team that there is no reason that they can’t compete for the title this year. Not that it will be easy.
“I definitely thinks it gives us some confidence,” Klinedinst said. “They are stepping on the field thinking we should be a team to beat and that is going to help us a lot. The conference has changed since I have been in it. When I played, I didn’t feel like the talent level was that high across the board, but it has definitely improved conference wide.”
The Stars open up the season today at home against Indy Kings.
First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m.
Klinedinst said there are a few things he wants his team to focus on in the opening few weeks of the season.
“We want to increase our baseball IQ,” Klinedinst said. “We have a good core that understands and gets it, but with a lot of new faces, we need them to pick up varsity baseball and understand the level they need to play at.”