Last season, the Morris baseball team won a regional championship for the first time since 2014, and posted a 25-9 record, which was the best since 2014's 28-10 mark.
Although the Redskins lost some key players from last season, most notably Jacob Overbeck, Patrick McCabe, Luke Olbrot, Alex Cameron and Logan Edwards, they will return plenty of talent that has coach Todd Kein excited about the 2020 season, whenever it may begin.
If strength up the middle is a key to baseball success, the Redskins should have it, as junior catcher Owen Burns returns as a starter, as well as senior middle infielder Matt Lopez and senior outfielders Zach Reddinger and Cole Laurie. Junior pitcher/first baseman Cody Bledsoe also returns to the everyday starting lineup, while senior pitchers Evan Briones and Jordan Wiers also return from last year's club.
"We have a good mix of experience and talent," said Kein, who is entering his 15th season as the Redskins' head coach.
Kein feels that the offense will be a strength for the team this season, as the lineup will boast both strength and speed.
"At this point one of our main strengths should be our ability to hit the ball," he said. "We have a lot of variety offensively, ranging from guys who can hit it out the park, contact guys, and guys who can drop down bunts. And a handful of guys can give us all three."
Laurie and Reddinger should provide a solid foundation for the offense, as both were key components in the attack last season. Laurie led the tea with a .394 batting average last season, which included a team-high 41 hits in 104 at-bats. He had five doubles, a home rum, 25 RBIs and scored a team-best 30 runs while waking 18 times and striking out just six. Reddinger posted a .333 batting average, led the team with 32 RBIs and tied for the team lead with eight doubles. In addition, he had one triple, two home runs and scored 26 runs.
Lopez did not see a lot of at-bats until late in the season, but he made the most of them, hitting .355 in 31 at-bats, and six of his 11 hits were doubles. He also scored 21 times, being used often as a courtesy runner. Bledsoe, who will play first base when he isn't pitching, hit .273 last season in 88 at-bats. He had five doubles and 14 RBIs while scoring 18 times and drawing 20 walks.
The left-handed combination of Bledsoe and Reddinger will give the Redskins both experience and talent at the top of the pitching rotation. Bledsoe was 2-2 last season with a team-leading 59 strikeouts in 41 innings. He finished with a 2.90 ERA and allowed just 31 hits and 22 walks. Reddinger, meanwhile, was 4-3 with a save in 30 1/3 innings with a 3.46 ERA. He strick out 25 and allowed 21 hits.
After Bledsoe and Reddinger, seniors Briones and Wiers, along with juniors Colin Cummings, Matt Lawton, Nathan Jepson, Nick Gomoll and Shawn Hougas will round out the pitching staff.
"On the other side of the ball, we feel pretty good defensively, as we continue to work some new guys into some key positions," Kein said. "But all around we have high expectations, which is typical for us.
"We know we can compete for a conference title. Beyond that, as proud as I was of last year’s group in winning the regional in the fashion they did, we are obviously always looking to go as deep as possible. I really think this team is going to surprise some people."