At least one opposing baseball coach is wary of the defending Class A champion heading into this season.
Under the heading of “teams to watch” on his preview sheet, he wrote down “Prep, Prep and Prep.”
The Junior Jays certainly deserve respect after capturing the state titles during the spring varsity and summer American Legion seasons, but Omaha Creighton Prep coach Pat Mooney said he prefers to look forward.
“We’re not going into this season any differently as the defending champs,” he said. “I’m excited for the new kids, so we’re not really looking back.”
Twelve players graduated from the 2012 squad that went 34-4 to capture the school’s ninth title and first since 2004. But the return of three of the team’s top pitchers who combined for 18 wins — seniors Jeff Albrecht, Adam Wilson and McLaine Jonas — is definitely cause for optimism.
Albrecht, a Creighton recruit, was the winning pitcher in the Junior Jays’ championship victory over Lincoln Northeast. He also was among the state leaders in strikeouts during the spring (69) and summer (104).
“He can throw three pitches for strikes,” Mooney said. “He’s a real battler who is almost always around the zone.”
Wilson had an ERA of 1.68 last spring and struck out 45. He also batted .328.
“Adam is more of a crafty guy,” Mooney said. “It seems like he throws about 88 different pitches. He fields his position well and has a great knack for getting people out.”
Jonas also was a major contributor during both seasons. He had a 1.95 ERA and struck out 50 in the spring and won 10 games in the summer while striking out 75.
“He throws hard and has a very good curve,” Mooney said. “He put that curve on the back burner during the summer and concentrated more on the fastball, and it worked out really well for us.”
While the Junior Jays appear set on the mound, their biggest graduation loss comes in the outfield. The trio of Evan Ryan (.485), Kevin Connolly (.416) and T.J. Wood (.360) gave Prep an advantage over opponents both offensively and defensively.
“We’re going to miss their leadership and their speed in the middle of the order,” Mooney said. “But it’s time for some of our other guys to step up. And I think they’ll be ready for the challenge.”
Other key returnees for Prep include infielders Scott Huber, Zach Garrett and Alex Allbery and catcher Mike Emodi.
Mooney, in his 13th season as head coach, said he wasn’t certain what to expect heading into the first scheduled game against Omaha South on Saturday at Brown Park. The snowy weather has forced his team to practice primarily indoors.
“We got out maybe three times on the football turf,” he said. “But I don’t think that’s necessarily bad. Sometimes the guys want to chuck the ball around too hard in the colder temperatures, and that’s not a good thing.”
The coach added that one goal for the Junior Jays is to continue their home dominance. Prep was 32-0 at home over the spring and summer seasons last year.
“Somebody pointed that out to me,” he said. “I thought that was a great stat, and I’d love to see us play like that again this season,” Mooney said.
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