ARCHIVE PHOTO BY LISA McGINTY
Senior Jaden Schlabach was a second-team All-Ohio outfielder last season and Coach Scott Huth said the team is expecting big things from him offensively this season.
By ARIEL STAHLER
Gazette & News sports writer
For the past six out of seven seasons, Dalton High School’s varsity baseball team has made it to the district tournament, with a state tournament appearance in 2017, and the Dawgs are looking for a long postseason in 2022. According to head coach Scott Huth, one of the team’s long-term goals this season is to have a deep tournament run.
“Our long-term goal is to again compete for the conference championship and make a deeper run in the tournament,” said Huth. “We feel if we can get and stay healthy, we have the guys to make those goals a reality. We have made it into the districts six of the last seven years, with the only exception being the COVID year, and we would like to get a little further than that.”
Before they can plan for the tournament, the Dawgs want to achieve their short-term goal to get healthy. Huth detailed some of the players have been battling non baseball injuries while others have sore arms that are typical during early-season practices in cold weather.
“We are just hoping to get healthy enough to get through the first few weeks without it costing us any games, especially in the conference,” said Huth. “We also have a couple of spots open from last year’s team and we hope to have someone begin to stand out from the group and take command of those spots.”
Dalton graduated seven seniors last season. There are seven seniors on this year’s team, six of which are returning players from the 2021 season. Senior Jaden Schlabach was a second-team All-Ohio outfielder last season and Huth said the team is expecting big things from him offensively this season. Schlabach holds Dalton’s career and season records for triples and he has the potential to take the career record for stolen bases this season. He will also add value for the Dawgs on the mound. Senior Isaac Wengerd will be Dalton’s lead-off hitter and number-one pitcher. Huth mentioned Wengerd is a smart ballplayer. Last season, Wengerd held a 6-0 record with a 2.14 ERA. Colter Chupp is another senior the Dawgs will rely on. He brings power to the middle of the lineup and the team looks for him to drive in runs. Junior Jack Steiner will be a defensive force at shortstop.
“I might be a little biased, but I think he is the best defensive shortstop in Wayne County, and maybe beyond,” said Huth regarding Steiner. “We have many other guys who have been working hard and improving and if those four can play to their potential, plus have a couple of the others keep making positive strides, we can be pretty successful.”
Huth said juniors Justin Basinger and Grant Johnson are some additional players to watch.
Huth has been encouraged by what he saw from his players during pre-season practices.
“So far throughout the preseason, we have gotten some good leadership from our players,” he said. “They seem to have a determination to do as well, or better, than last season.
Our team seems to have a lot of athleticism and versatility and I have been impressed with how hard they have been working and how coachable they have been. I have also been impressed with our younger/new guys and with the ability and attitude that they have brought.”
Heading into the start of the season, Huth said the team is hoping to have deeper pitching depth than they had in past years. He is optimistic the Dawgs will have solid defense due to the number of experienced players on the roster. On offense, Dalton looks to be more consistent and have a higher team batting average than the last couple years.
Huth has some aspects in mind from last season that he wants to see carried over into this year.
“Last season, we tied for the conference championship with Waynedale,” said Huth. “There are some very good teams in our conference, but we played pretty consistent last year and we are just hoping to continue that. We also felt we were playing fairly well at the end of last season, even though we feel like we might have gotten upset in the tournament. We hope to build off of the end of the season and get back into that rhythm quickly this season.”
The keys to a successful season rest on staying healthy, finding the spots where each player can contribute their best and hitting the ball well.
“Getting healthy is first and foremost in my mind,” said Huth. “After that, we need to figure out who will step up and fill those couple of spots we need filled after losing some valuable guys to graduation last year. Of course, as always, we will need to play great defense and get some timely hitting.”