Northland Christian enters the 2017 baseball campaign looking to improve on their state quarterfinals appearance a year ago, and Manager Rick Nixon returns for his second year after compiling a 19-14-1 record last season in his debut as the skipper for the Cougars.
For Northland to reach the sate tournament, Nixon and staff will have to replace a couple of all-state award winners and arguably their top two pitchers from a year ago. Gone is the speedy outfield anchor Michael Parmely as well as award-winning arms in Nick Labbie and Noah Fouts. Nixon expects these holes to be filled with quality as the squad will field 10 seniors, most of whom saw extensive playing time last season.
On the mound, the Cougars should have one of the top rotations in the state. Nick Petro, a junior, is most likely to get the opening day call and brings experience in addition to an 88 mph fastball to the mound. Seniors Teddy Lewis and Trey Hinkle will round out the rotation. While the starting spots look to be solidified, the bullpen is the most untested position for Northland. Inexperienced in comparison, the relief pitching positions are full of potential, led by seniors Eli Burton and Nicholas Woody. Junior Jerry Webster, sophomore Landon Murray, and freshman Marshall Ingram will all get plenty of work from the bullpen.
Behind the plate, Reid Anderson returns. Nixon believes Anderson was the best defensive catcher in their district last season and expects the senior to shut down the opponents’ running game and drive in a lot of runs at the plate. Defensively, the Cougars will be very strong up the middle, led by their returning leadoff hitter and 4-year starter at shortstop, Michael Chase. The all-district senior hit .429 last season and is expected to lead an aggressive offensive attack in 2017.
On the other side of the infield, Preston Pounds returns at second base. The junior reached base last season half of every plate appearance (.500 OBP) and recently won a state championship as a receiver on the football team. Left-handed power Fonzi Diaz will start at first base while third base will the most competitive. Tim Harrison, Trey Hinkle, and Eli Burton will compete for the starting job and all three are expected to be in the lineup consistently at other positions.
The outfield for Northland will be anchored by seniors Brady Abt and Teddy Lewis. Expect to see Petro and junior Jerry Webster in the outfield when not on the mound.
With the returning talent from last year’s squad and the number of quality upperclassmen on the team, we expect Northland to be at the top of their district in 2017. The toughest competition will come from rival Cypress Christian and the always dangerous Bay Area Christian.
Manager: Rick Nixon (2nd season, 19-14-1)
Coaches: Brian Fisher, Jared Schultz
Notable Alumni: Darian Simms (Arkansas), Allen Hooker (Lipscombe), Ross Baer (Centenary), Michael Parmely (Ranger), Nick Labbie (Chattanooga State)