The 2013 baseball season was the best in school history at West Ashley High. The Wildcats won a school-record 17 games for their first outright region championship, along with three victories in the state playoffs.
With several key players returning, the Wildcats are hoping 2014 is even better.
Expectations are clearly higher this spring for West Ashley, a team that is now ranked in the state's AAAA top 10 and is no longer sneaking up on unsuspecting opponents. Mitch Miggenburg, now in his seventh season as the head coach, is interested to see how his team will respond.
"There is no doubt we may have snuck up on some teams last year, but that won't be the case this season," Miggenburg said. "We are ranked in the top 10 and people have high expectations for this team. I think it's a different mentality now and I am interested to see how we handle things."
So far, Miggenburg's squad has handled the expectations just fine. Already the Wildcats have knocked off defending state AAAA champion Lexington, winning an extra-inning game during a preseason tournament. West Ashley is off to a 4-1 start with the lone defeat coming to Blythewood, another top 10 AAAA team.
"I've been pleased so far. We have played pretty well through our scrimmages and in the early games," Miggenburg said. "I like that we have tested ourselves against good teams early. I think it has allowed us to gain some confidence while also exposing some of the areas that we need to improve on."
This year's team has a mixture of veteran leaders and newcomers that will have to step up. Senior pitcher/shortstop Jonathan Sabo and senior first baseman Taylor Oden are the rock solid leaders of the team. Sabo is a bulldog of a competitor on the mound as well as one of the team's top hitters. Oden is a major power source in the middle of the batting order.
Junior third baseman Connor Wohnig is a third-year starter and a key contributor with the bat, while senior second baseman Tyrie Blaylock is a steady defender and top of the order hitter.
Senior left fielder Will Hardy, a part-time performer a year ago, has belted two home runs this season. Junior right-hander Anthony Vincelli will be the No. 2 starter behind Sabo. Jordan Merritt has been seeing extensive mound work as well.
Miggenburg feels his club can be a consistent offensive team but is hoping for some inexperienced arms to carry more of the load as the season progresses. The starting pitching has posted four complete games already this season, but the coach says that cannot be expected for the duration of a long season.
"I guess pitching depth is our biggest concern right now, but we feel good about the arms we have," Miggenburg said. "We don't have many with varsity mound experience right now so we'll be hoping to develop that as time goes on. I feel like we have a good, competitive group offensively and I think we'll play good defense. We just need the pitching staff to develop some depth."