Oak Ridge baseball team off on the right foot with win over Del CampoBy: Matt Long, Sports Editor
It’s March and Todd Melton is excited about baseball.
The veteran baseball coach at Oak Ridge High has reason to be excited. He’s got a solid team of 20 players which he feels will again compete for a Delta River League title and beyond.
The Trojans started the season Friday with a solid 4-2 win over Del Campo, featuring a strong performance from junior pitcher Austin Root, who scattered nine hits and struck out six in the complete-game victory. Oak Ridge only scored four runs, but hit the ball hard as Ross Dwelley had two doubles. Tanner Ales hit a two-run double and Logan Marston and Logan Denholm also had doubles.
“It was a solid win and it’s nice to get the first one out of the way,” Melton said.
With Root the Trojans return their top pitcher from a year ago, who went 7-2 last season and had four complete games and two shutouts. He struck out 37 and only walked six. At the plate, senior Alec de Watteville figures to be the main man as the third-place hitter in the lineup. De Watteville led the team in nearly every offensive category a year ago, including average (.412), runs scored (36), hits (40), RBIs (29), doubles (9), triples (4) and home runs (3).
“When you return your best hitter and best pitcher from the previous year, that’s a good start,” Melton said.
The Trojans feature great depth, both in the lineup and on the mound, and that will serve them well as the competition among players will make the team stronger. No where is that depth more apparent than behind the plate, where the team features senior Logan Marston and junior Tanner Ales.
“I think we have the two best catchers in the area,” Melton said. “Logan’s a senior and has earned his shot, but Tanner is very capable and I think on any other team he’d be starting.”
Dwelley is the team’s first baseman and Denholm, a sophomore, holds down the other corner position at third. De Watteville is the shortstop with Mickey Meinhofer at second base.
Melton said several players could see time in the outfield. In the season opener, FP Santangelo, John Rico and Trevor Callahan got the start. Sophomore Chris Roppolo will see a lot of time as the designated hitter. Melton said Brogan Cooper is as good as defensive outfielder as anyone on the roster.
Meinhofer and Denholm sit at the top of the order in front of de Watteville with Dwelley, Ales and Marston hitting in the middle. Melton said several combinations of outfielders will round out the lineup.
“I really like our lineup,” Melton said. “All of our outfielders run well and we can do a lot of things at the bottom of the lineup.”
Root leads the pitching staff which features Tommy Hummer and Ryan Sullivan, Ales, Cooper and Connor Davis, among others.
“We’re deep pitching-wise with a lot of options,” Melton said. “I think we’re ready to make a run this year.”
Oak Ridge faces two tough opponents this week, playing host to Del Oro Tuesday and traveling to Franklin Thursday.