"I think we return a pretty good hitting lineup," said Beiler, "but the question is always pitching and how well can it hold up? We need more than one horse, so we're looking at some youngsters to fill those shoes."
Shikellamy, like its cross-river rival, missed the playoffs by two wins a season ago, but that marked a solid step forward under now fourth-year coach Bobby Felmy.
"I think 8-12 sticks with the kids a little bit," said Felmy, "like, We've got to get this program back. What do we need to do as a group to get over that hump because that's what we're going to do."
The Braves got an infusion of talent from a sophomore class that enjoyed success at the Little League level. New leadoff hitter Kyle Leitzel and his classmates created the kind of competition Felmy craved to take his team to the next level, along with established standouts like juniors Nick Dunn (a school-record .544 average last year) and Colby Lahr (.373, 18 runs).
"The older guys see these younger guys can play and they're thinking, I can't let them show me up," said Felmy. "We haven't had this kind of passion in practice. It's exciting to see."
Milton is the one HAC-I team that graduated both quality and quantity, losing seven starters. However, third-year coach Chace Phillips is fortunate to have his top hitter (Brady Chappell, .386) and pitcher (Mark Artley, 3.25 ERA), both seniors, to build around.
"Last year we had a ton of expectations we didn't quite live up to (going 8-12), and this year there's not as much with what we lost," said Phillips, "but there is a sense of excitement. We've got a lot of new faces in new places. I'm sure there will be growing pains and we'll struggle in certain areas, but the fact is I know these guys will go out and give all they have."