NEWCOMERSTOWN -- With six returning lettermen including five seniors, fourth-year Newcomerstown High baseball coach Rob Hendershot believes his squad will have the talent and the team leadership to be very competitive in the Inter-Valley Conference this season.

"We have a healthy mixture of experienced players and some young freshmen," offered Hendershot. "I think a lot of the freshmen will step up and compete for some of the open spots we have right now and then we are really excited about our senior group this year. We are also counting on the juniors to step up, too, because they have done some good things for us in the past.

"We are looking for our upperclassmen to carry the load for us," Hendershot continued. "They are all experienced and have been around, so I think they will do a lot of good things for us."

The Trojans are coming off a rough 2016 season where they finished 9-17 overall and really struggled in the IVC, posting a 2-14 mark against league foes.

Coach Hendershot noted the competitiveness in the IVC and that one of his team goals is to improve in league play.

"The IVC is just a great overall athletic conference," admitted the NHS mentor, "and that doesn't change for baseball. Teams like Ridgewood, Strasburg, Garaway, Hiland and Sandy Valley will all be very competitive in the IVC this year. We are looking to make a strong push in the league and be one of the top-seeded teams for the tournament."

Six returning lettermen will look to lead the way for Newcomerstown this season, including seniors Joel Ebersbach (pitcher/catcher/first baseman), Brandon Septer (pitcher/infielder/outfielder), Braden Russell (pitcher/infielder), Bailey Guy (pitcher/infielder), George Brode (pitcher/catcher/infielder) and junior Kyle Hinds (pitcher/outfielder).

Brode is coming off an impressive 2016 campaign where he recorded a team-best .400 batting average while earning first team all-East District and second team all-IVC recognition.

Russell finished last season with a .313 batting average and was rewarded second team all-East District and honorable mention all-IVC while Ebersbach sported a .330 average at the plate in 2016 while earning second team all-East District honors.

Guy and Septer both recorded high batting averages of .279 and .271, respectively, for the Trojans last season with Septer posting a team-best 2.90 earned-run average on the mound.

Juniors vying for for varsity time this season are Jace Cabot, Caleb Green, Thurman Gibson.

A number of newcomers will try to make an immediate impact for Newcomerstown this season including freshmen Nick Lengyel, Gavin Weaver, Braden Ingle, Blade Mitchell, Jayson Cole, Alex Porcher and Bailey Lowe.

"We are wanting to go out and win every game," said Hendershot. "We set high expectations for the kids and they know that. We are at that point where I think we can compete with everyone we play and be among the better teams in the league."

Coach Hendershot pinpointed some of the goals and accomplishments he would like his squad to reach this season.

"One of our main team goals is to get above the .500 mark this year," offered Hendershot. "We haven't had a team reach the .500 mark or above in probably 10 years, so it would definitely be nice to accomplish that. We would also like to win at least one tournament game, but I'm hoping we will make it deep in the tournament.

"With all of the returning seniors and letterwinners we have, I think we can accomplish these goals," the NHS coach concluded.

Newcomerstown lost just one player to graduation - Ben Hartline.

Hartline started in center field for the Trojans during the 2016 season and also spent some time on the pitching mound, earning honorable mentiion all-Eastern District Division III.

"Ben was just a great player and teammate," offered Hendershot. "He did what he needed to do everyday and never complained about anything. He will definitely be missed and it will definitely be important that we find someone to take his place."