Hard-throwing Ankney back to power Braves

Indian Creek sophomore pitcher Trevor Ankney just concentrated on bringing the heat last season. Most times, that was more than enough.

“Last year I pretty much just threw fastballs and, hopefully, they couldn’t touch it,” Ankney said. “I just kept throwing it until they did something, then I would put the breaking ball here and there and it helped me.”

The 6-foot, 170-pound righthander said added strength has allowed him to pick up a couple of miles per hour on the radar gun, boosting his speed to 88 or 89 mph heading into the season.

Ankney was 5-1 with a 1.21 ERA for the Braves (18-3), who lost in the Class 3A regional championship to Northview. Ankney struck out 79 in 46 1/3 innings.

“I think our team is pretty much loaded this year and our pitching staff is incredibly strong,” Ankney said. “I think we’re going to make it even farther this year, honestly.

“I’ve think I’ve improved a little bit, throwing in the offseason. Most of our pitchers have been improving a lot, throwing bullpens every once in a while and getting our arms back loose and stretched out. That helps a lot.”

Ankney said the Braves relied a bit too much on their pitching arms last season.

“We really need to improve our batting and keep going from there,” Ankney said.

The Braves move into the tough Western Indiana Conference, which includes defending 3A champion and preseason No. 1 Northview, No. 6 West Vigo and No. 9 Sullivan.

Braves coach Eddie Willis said several colleges, including Indiana University, already have expressed interest in Ankney.

“He’s pretty calm and cool on the mound,” Willis said. “He’s a smart pitcher.”

Ankney can play just about anywhere in the field when he isn’t pitching.

“He’s worked on his hitting a lot over the summer,” Willis said. “It wasn’t his strong point last year. He knows he wants to be on the field all the time, so he’s been working hard at hitting.”

Ankney, who hit .225 in 40 at-bats last season, said he worked with his father on his hitting in the offseason.

A three-sport athlete as a freshman, Ankney gave up football last fall but still was a key member of the Braves’ basketball team this past season.

Scouting Johnson County's baseball teams

Center Grove Trojans

Coach: Keith Hatfield

Last season: 26-4; lost to Roncalli in Class 4A Plainfield Semistate

Who’s back: C/OF Nick Coy, Sr.; IF Ryan Sauter, Jr.; IF Michael Wyman, Jr.

Who’s gone: Jacob Cantleberry, Conner Cantrell, Will Smithey and Tye Thixton

Key newcomers: IF/OF Eli Lawyer-Smith, Jr., P Jacob Gilcrest, Jr.; OF Braden Parks, Jr.

Outlook: The Trojans must replace their top two pitchers, including ace Cantleberry (8-1, 1.25 ERA), and six other starters. “Filling innings is going to be the biggest key and how the inexperienced guys perform,” Hatfield said. “They have talent, but the first year on varsity is always a challenge.” Defense should be a strength.

Edinburgh Lancers

Coach: Jason Burton

Last season: 9-14; lost to Greenwood Christian in first round of Class A Morristown Sectional

Who’s back: P/CF Kyle Armel, Sr.; C Parker Bryant, Jr.; 1B Tavian Cosby, Jr.; IF Coltan Henderson, So.; P Zach Murphy, Jr.

Who’s gone: Kinser Bryant

Key newcomers: OF Zach Giles, So.; P/SS Gabe Wilson, Jr.

Outlook: First-year coach Burton said the varsity experience and depth should be strengths. “We have quite a few players that have the ability to play multiple positions, which should help us throughout the season,” he said. A big factor will be adjusting to a new Mid-Hoosier Conference schedule. Instead of playing each conference opponent once, teams now face one another twice on back-to-back days.

Franklin Grizzly Cubs

Coach: Ryan Feyerabend

Last season: 12-11; lost to Greenwood in Class 4A Center Grove Sectional semifinal

Who’s back: IF/P Jamie Burnett, Sr.; P Michael Couet, Jr.; IF-P Kyle Davis, Jr.; OF/P Jacob Heuchan, Sr.; OF Jerris Lee, Sr.; C Alec MacLennan, Jr.; IF Isaac McCullough, Sr.; IF Luke Miles, So.; IF Stone Peddycord, Sr.

Who’s gone: Dylan Drybread, Austin Frankl, Josh Frazier, Andrew Hartkorn and Zach Lee

Key newcomers: OF Alex VanDyke, Sr.; OF Jonah Rockey, Jr.

Outlook: Feyerabend said that despite gradating some good players, Franklin has enough talent returning to form a solid team. Feyerabend said the team should be solid defensively and has some capable hitters. Among the returnees are Heuchan (.305 average) and MacLennan (.290). “I feel it may take a couple weeks to figure out our starting pitching rotation and to find the guys that can come out of the bullpen and finish games for us,” Feyerabend said.

Greenwood Woodmen

Coach: Andy Bass

Last season: 16-11; lost to Center Grove in Class 4A Center Grove Sectional championship

Who’s back: 3B/C T.J. Bass, Jr.; 2B/P Jarrett Caster, Sr.; OF/P Jordan Martin, Jr.; C/OF Damon Maynard, Sr.; OF Dylan Rosado, Sr.

Who’s gone: Jackson Daugherty, Preston Ley, Lucas Marko and Reid Werner

Key newcomers: IF/P Jackson Beckham, Sr.; OF/P Jacob Cutter, Sr.; 1B Taylor Faust, Sr.; C/IF Jordan Leverett, Jr.; OF Sean Moss, Sr.; Trent Rains, So, SS/P; P Brevin Shackelford, Sr.; SS/P Joel Stinnett, Jr.; 1B/P Mason Stunick, Sr.; OF/P McCauley Stunick, Sr.

Outlook: The biggest concern is the pitching staff, which graduated two of the top three pitchers (including No. 1 Reid Werner). But Martin, who was 4-4 last year with a 1.50 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 46.2 IP) innings, is a good starting point. “Offensively and defensively the team should be a little stronger than we were last year,” Andy Bass said. “If we can throw strikes, I think we’ll be competitive. If we have trouble throwing strikes, it will be an interesting outlook.” The Woodmen have good team speed, including two especially fast players in Rosado (.400, 16 RBI, 21 SB) and Moss, who moved in from St. Louis.

Greenwood Christian Cougars

Coach: Doug Hagist

Last season: 15-8; lost to Jac-Cen-Del in Class A Morristown Regional semifinal

Who’s back: P/OF Nolan Check, Sr.; C/P Colton Crick, So.; P/IF Griffin Huizinga, So.; OF Camden Peters, Sr.; 1B Elliot Murray, So.

Who’s gone: Nobie Pearcy, Krae Sparks and Nate Weems

Key newcomers: OF George Apgar, So; IF Ethan Chupp, Sr.; C Joey Jessup, So.; OF Payton Modlin, So.

Outlook: The Cougars graduated six regular starters, including .514 hitter Weems). Among the returnees, Check is the leading returning hitter with a .466 mark last season. Hagist said this season’s team is young but talented. “It will be a different style of team, but they are excited about the challenge and are looking forward to reinventing ourselves,” he said. Speed and hitting will be strengths, but seeing where everyone will fit defensively and figuring out how to fill the graduation voids may take a little time.

Indian Creek Braves

Coach: Eddie Willis

Last season: 18-3; lost to Northview in Class 3A Crawfordsville Regional championship

Who’s back: P/IF Trevor Ankney, So.; P/IF Eric Braughton, Sr.; IF/P Jared DeHart, Jr.; C Jeremy Lee, Sr.: OF Nolan Remsburg, Sr.; IF/P Dawson Read, Jr.; OF/P Dylan Sprong, Jr.; P/IF Max Walls, Sr.; OF Joey Willis, Jr.

Who’s gone: Tyler Parks, Jarrett Rozzi, Sam Willis and Zach Winsby

Key newcomers: IF/OF Luke Bramlett, Jr.; IF/P Dustin Sprong, So.

Outlook: Pitching should be a strength with Ankney (5-1, 1.21 ERA) and Braughton (5-0, 0.84). Willis said staff depth is a key as well, which will be important with the new pitch count rules. Seven starters return, including infielders Read (team-high .490 average) and DeHart (.364). “This might be the most talented team we’ve had,” Willis said. The Braves, coming off their first sectional title since 1973, are entering their first season in the Western Indiana Conference and figure to be among the league favorites.

Whiteland Warriors

Coach: Scott Sherry

Last Season 7-20; lost to Center Grove in Class 4A Center Grove Sectional semifinal

Who’s back: Chase Bennett, Jr.; Nick Carrizales, Jr.; Luke Helton, So.; Jacob Holzhausen, Sr.; Logan Mullinix, Sr.; IF Ricky Ramey, Sr.; Tyler Robinson, Sr.

Who’s gone: Christian Curry and Caleb Deiter

Key newcomers: Iyan Pelfree, So.

Outlook: Sherry said the Warriors will look to rebound this year by combining some quality returning players with some new faces. Pitching depth is expected to be a strength. “We should be able to run six to seven guys to the mound that we think can compete and give us a chance to win,” Sherry said.

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Mark Ambrogi is a sports correspondent for the Daily Journal.