With seven returning letter winners, the West Liberty High School baseball team hopes to improve upon an 8-6 record a year ago for 19th year coach Troy Wulf.
Lake Newton, Chance Thrasher, Caleb Wulf, Colin Cassady, Drake Collins, Tyler Jones and JD Seering all return for the Comets who hope to continue to build on last season, coach Wulf counting on the players to perform with “energy and play well every night.”
The Comets gave up a 3-0 lead and lost a Class 2A District final championship title game to favored Three Rivers Conference foe Mid-Prairie July 18 last year, 7-5, just missing a crack at getting into the Iowa State finals in Des Moines.
The team opened their season this year on May 24 in a double-header against Mid-Prairie and followed by playing Muscatine May 25 before getting rained out in an outing set for Bellevue on Thursday, May 27. The team came back home for a double-header against neighboring West Branch on Tuesday, June 1 and then hosts North Cedar on Thursday, June 3, beginning at 7 p.m.
The busy schedule continues on Saturday as they travel to Marion for a 10 a.m. outing before hosting Tipton on Monday, June 7, in a double-header beginning at 5 p.m., followed by hosting Anamosa on Tuesday, June 8 in a 7 p.m. start.
The regular season goes through July 7 with an outing against Lone Tree at Mt. Mercy University in Cedar Rapids.
The Comets have three primary starting returning pitchers on the team including Chance Thrasher, Caleb Wulf and Drake Collins.
“I expect them to be consistent and give us quality innings,” said coach Wulf. “As with all young pitchers, they will be challenged to throw strikes and lead our defense.”
The coach said he has some solid experience returning but notes the team “lost some significant contributors.”
He said the Comets possess a good group of young players that will help the team, but said it will take time to develop those talents. “While we have experience, we also have a lot of youth. It will take time to get them up to speed,” Wulf said.
The coach said one of his biggest concerns is improving offensively to “find more ways to score more runs.”
Wulf said he is hoping to get back to a more normal season this year after playing a shortened season a year ago due to the pandemic.
Junior Caleb Wulf was the second best hitter on the team last year at .327, getting 16 hits in 46 at bats plus 11 RBI’s while senior Lake Newton hit.324, scattering 11 hits in 4 at bats while leading the team in walks with 10. Sophomore Tyler Jones also had a good year, hitting .238 in going 10-42.
Last season., Newton led the team in scoring, crossing the plate 16 times in leading the team in on base percentage at .521 while he also stole 13 bases, second best on the team.
Six players on the 2020 team had a better than .900 fielding percentage, including four freshmen, now sophomores - JD Seering, Drake Collins, Collin Cassady and Jones.