Things were already thin for the defending Class 3A state champion Norwell Knights and didn’t get any better when senior pitcher/infielder Jonah Patten was suspended for the season.
The Knights beat Jasper 2-1 in the 3A state title game last June, but the lineup was filled with seniors as well as Patten, an Arkansas recruit.
Among the players coming back are seniors Logan Dettmer and Colyn Torson and juniors Alex Hunter, Reggie Hayes and James Spera.
Despite the personnel losses, the Knights come into the season ranked atop the 3A state preseason poll.
Here’s a look at the top area players, teams and storylines for this season:
Colin Brockhouse, Northrop: The senior hit .505 with seven home runs and 42 RBI last year.
Zach McKinstry, North Side: The senior is a three-time All-SAC shortstop and is committed to play at Central Michigan.
Matt Kent, Canterbury: The junior pitcher is a Xavier recruit who was 5-4 with a 1.91 ERA in 2013.
Cole Gerardot, Heritage: The senior hit .438 with 39 hits and 36 runs last year.
Aaron Jones, Blackhawk Christian: The senior hit .522 with 28 runs scored and 25 RBI.
Carroll: The NHC and sectional champion Chargers are ranked No. 10 in 4A and bring back senior Taylor Goshen, Matt Meihls; juniors Grant Inman, Trevor Snyder, Luke Brunner, Keegan Nichols; and sophomore Matt Owens.
Northrop: The SAC champs return Brockhouse, senior Joey Filosa, Trevon Wilson and Derek Smiley.
Adams Central: The Jets fell in the semistate to Northfield and bring back seniors Conner Lengerich, Isaac Soldner, Cooper Hill, Kyle Baker and Jaron Bitner.
Homestead: The Spartans lost in the regional finals last year and return seniors Tyler Zimske, Joe Ault, Ryan Stephens, Luke Landrigan, Kyle Mohsenzadesh, Justin Jones and MacLean Trieglaff.
Angola: The Hornets lost in the Bellmont Regional semifinals and have coming back seniors Markus Arnold, Tyler Kennedy, Justin Davis, Darius Hillman and Cody Nickols.
New position: Brockhouse will play first base instead of shortstop or pitcher after having Tommy John surgery last summer.
Experienced leader: New Huntington North coach Brian Abbott spent 18 years coaching at Eastbrook and is the executive director of the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association.
A first for Lakewood Park: For the first time in school history, the Panthers will field a junior varsity team.
Going for records: Bishop Dwenger senior Luke Palmer has career averages of .519 batting, .577 on-base percentage and is looking for the school record in both categories currently held by assistant coach Steve Devine (.434 batting, .635 on-base).
Bound for Parkland: Homestead’s Tyler Zimske and Joe Ault are headed to Parkland Community College, which has been the destination for a lot of northeast Indiana’s players over the years.