Baseball season preview: players to watch


S. Findley

Mitchell Evans prepares to bunt.

Sam Findley, Sports Editor

Coming off a 29-5 season that brought home its first sectional title since 2016, the Center Grove baseball team has its eyes on going further this postseason. 

“We have high expectations. I wouldn’t say it’s championship or bust. Last year we won the sectional, won our conference. Didn’t win the regional championship, but I would say last year was still a huge success with the record that we had,” head coach Keith Hatfield said. “So I would say we’re just trying to build off of last year’s momentum.”

The state has taken notice of Center Grove’s success with the preseason coaches poll ranking them at #5 in the state and PBR Indiana ranking the Trojans as #2 in 4A. 

Returning Players to watch:

Jacob Wilson 

Wilson was the Trojans’ second option behind senior Drue Young on the mound last year and will likely be Center Grove’s top pitcher for meaningful games this year. Wilson has added significant muscle to his 6’4 frame in the offseason and is topping out at 94 mph compared to 88-89 mph around this time last season. 

The senior University of Dayton commit compiled a 7-2 record in games pitched with an average 2.86 ERA. In addition to being a top pitcher, Wilson will also be a leader for this program. 

“This isn’t a group that needs led often, but when it’s necessary, the team looks to me to come forward when it’s time to hold ourselves accountable for our day-to-day actions,” Wilson said. 

Mitchell Evans 

Evans was Center Grove’s best player last season and made strong contributions at the plate and in the field. The senior Indiana Football commit has the highest returning batting average (3.98) and recorded outs (43). 

“We haven’t figured out a lineup yet, so I don’t know where (Evans) is going to fit in the lineup. Last year (he batted) third for us, and he’ll start at center (field). We couldn’t throw him last year because of some arm issues, but he’ll pitch for us this year,” Hatfield said. 

Evans could end up being the Trojans X factor when they run into elite pitchers because of his at bat ability.

Newcomers to watch:

Caden Cornett 

Cornett had a limited run as a pitcher for CG last year, but in his short time with the team, he was pitching in the lower 90’s with an average ERA of 3.30. 

Cornett has put on significant muscle since his sophomore season and adds depth to an already solid pitching core, which is especially important during the postseason. 

“My maturity grew in the offseason. I took the weight room and my throwing progression seriously,” Cornett said. “It’s really shown these past few weeks with live at bats and it kind of showed me what I knew I could do and that my role was, as a starter, to go out there and give my team my best every time —just get outs and let our offense do its work.”

Noah Coy

Sophomore Coy is the definition of an athlete, with baseball being his third sport. That athleticism will be a large part of the role he plays in the infield and as a DH. 

“I’m looking forward to helping the team any way I can. Anywhere I can get on the field and have a positive impact on the team  to win a state championship. If that means I DH or play six different positions throughout the year, I’m willing to do that. I am comfortable at almost any position on the field,” Coy said. “My athletic ability allows me to be versatile and play almost anywhere on the field. It also allows me to be an aggressive base runner. Being put in different pressure situations from football season and other sports allows me to be comfortable in any moment.”

Season outlook 

If Division One offers are a good measure of talent, then the Trojans have an abundance of talent with over a dozen players offered by division one programs and six signed to D1 programs. 

That talent will be tested early in the postseason with Center Grove’s sectional hosting a number of aces. Center Grove will host the sectional and county tournaments on their new turf field.

“There’s a lot of talent in the sectional, and there’s a lot of pitching in the sectional. You look at who Mooresville returns and with Martinsville you got the (Kevin) Reed kid lefty. Franklin has two guys with Max (Clark, the top-ranked MLB class of 2023 recruit) and (Logan)  Davenport and Greenwood with (Cade) Kelly,” Hatfield said. “There’s a lot of arms in our sectional so normally you say the draw is a big deal but the draw isn’t that big of a deal because no matter who you draw, they’re going to have somebody that can sit you down on any given day. So it’ll be a fun sectional, obviously, with as many county schools as we have in a sectional. There’ll be big crowds. It’ll be fun we’re hosting this year with our new field and some added bleachers. So it’ll be fun. It’ll be a fun year.”