WEST LAFAYETTE -- Opportunities are there for the taking for playing time for the Ridgewood High baseball team this spring as the Generals look to improve on last year's 15-10 record.
Entering his fifth season leading the program, RHS grad Chad Lahna has made it known to his squad its about results in the battle for playing time.
"We have let it known from freshman to seniors it doesn't matter how old you are...it's what you bring to the field," Lahna explained. "We're at a point to be successful we need guys to push each other and battle for spots.
"Like the saying goes 'competition breeds success'," Lahna added. "Nothing will be give to anyone, it's got to be earned on the field."
A key graduation loss for the Generals was four-year letterman Brice Hammond, who led RHS at the plate with a .409 average with 12 doubles and 16 RBIs and worked 30 innings on the mound compiling a 3-3 record.
Hammond was recognized for his efforts by being selected first team all-Eastern District Division III and all-Inter-Valley Conference and was an Eastern District All-Star Game participant.
"Brice was just a ball player...we could put him anywhere on the field," Lahna offered. "He's going to be a tough player to replace for sure."
Ridgewood will also have to deal with the loss of a pair of two-year lettermen due to injury -- senior Trent Harrison and junior Hunter Mizer.
"Losing Hunter and Trent is taking two starters from our outfield," Lahna said, "along with two top of the batting order guys in our line-up, so we need to find some guys willing to step up and fill those holes."
RHS returns just six lettermen, led by senior three-year veteran Braeden Smith (P/SS) who will be counted on to lead the Generals on the mound this spring.
"We're going to lean on Braeden to throw a lot of innings for us and keep us in the game with his arm," Lahna offered. "He's got a lot of responsibility on his shoulders, but he has the talent and experience to produce."
Smith earned first team all-Eastern District and all-Inter-Valley Conference honors last year after finishing with a 5-3 pitching record in 48 innings worked, an ERA of 2.607 with 40 strikeouts and just 10 walks. Offensively, Smith finished with a .264 batting average with 19 hits in 72 at-bats.
Returning behind the plate for the Orange and Black will be senior two-year letterman Bryce Hains (C/OF). Last season, Hains struggled at the plate but was a solid catcher defensively.
"Bryce was our starter at catcher last year and getting him back is key," Lahna said. "I'm looking for him to build on last year and make the right calls for us and be a leader. He's been working hard to bring more to the plate offensively as well."
Back to supply some needed power in the RHS lineup is senior letterman Keith Leindecker (1B/3B), who is coming off a .288 average with a pair of home runs with a team high 20 RBIs last season.
"We will look for Keith to give us some power as we won't have a lot of that from other kids," Lahna stated. "He is a big kid, so we need him to use his strength to produce RBIs from the middle of our order."
Also being counted on to play key roles are a pair of junior lettermen -- Zach Wright (INF/P) and Kolton Alexander (INF/P).
"We look for Kolton to be our number two pitcher and throw a lot of innings along with Braeden," Lahna offered. "He swings the bat fairly well also. He's a top of the order guy who makes good contact.
"Zach brings a real good glove to the field," Lahna said. "We are hoping for him to ne more productive offensively this season."
Alexander reeled in second team all-IVC honors last year after posting a .289 batting average with three doubles and 15 RBIs. On the mound, he worked 27 innings with a record of 2-1 with an ERA of 3.07.
Getting the first looks to fill the two open spots in the Ridgewood outfield will be juniors Drew Boise (OF) and Nick Morton (OF).
"I'm looking for Drew and Nick to produce and win those jobs," Lahna said. "They have some experience and will get first look out there in those spots, but they will have to get the job done because there will be some competition"
Another junior who got some field time last year Lahna hopes steps into a larger role this year is Jarett Slusser (INF/P).
"Jarett played several games last year and I feel he is ready for a bigger role for us," Lahna stated. "He could also see some time on the mound."
Rounding out the Ridgewood roster battling for playing time are seniors Kaden Edie (INF/P) and Brice Dennis (INF/P) along with juniors Kolten Pigman (C/OF) and Jordan Orlando (OF).
Lahna also welcomes a large, talented freshman class with 15 players slated for junior varsity action, but some of them could break into the varsity line-up after preseason practice.
"We've got a nice freshman class ... big numbers," Lahna said.
RHS freshman players include Brice Grace (C/OF), Jacob Mourer (OF), Cody Thompson (INF), Blayden McCoy (OF/P), Kaden Smith (P/INF), Colten Hursey (OF), Chase Minet (C/P), Memphis "Mac" Cutshall (INF/P), Logan Smith (INF/P), Connor Kunze (OF/P), Trey Stoffer (INF/P), Koleton Smith (INF/P), Cale Roberts (INF/P), Matt Mourer (OF) and John Evin (INF).
Completing the Ridgewood JV roster are sophomores Justin Conner (INF/OF), Cole Cognion (INF/P) and Cody West (OF).
Lahna's coaching staff returns intact from last year -- Travis Simmons, Troy Dolick, Dusty Shroyer, Ryan Gress and Josh McQueen.
Ridgewood posted an 11-5 record and finished runner-up in the tough IVC last year behind powerful Hiland.
"Hiland is the frontrunner for sure...just a first-class program up there," Lahna said. "They have a lot of talent back from last year's state team, so they will be tough again."
Other teams Lahna feels could be in contention are Strasburg, Garaway and he likes Tuscarawas Central Catholic as a dark-horse
"I hope we are in the mix in the IVC," Lahna said. "We're really fortunate to play in the IVC...it's just a quality league from top to bottom each and every year."