Gilbert plans to challenge Airport for the Region 5-3A pennant this season after finishing one game behind the upstart Eagles a year ago.
“Our strengths should be a solid defense and good overall team speed,” said Indians coach Ashley Burnett. “But for us to have success we will have to improve our hitting and have our pitchers throw strikes and pitch to contact.”
In all nine players return with varsity experience, including college-bound seniors Jared Williams (South Carolina) and Mitch Spires (Winthrop). Shortstop Williams hit .425 with 29 runs scored, 13 RBI and 26 steals last season. Third baseman Spires batted .286 with 13 runs, a team-high 21 RBI and 10 steals. Spires was also 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA in spot duty on the mound.
Fellow seniors Jon Newman (5-1, 1.81 ERA) and Trevor Fredrickson (4-2, 2.66 ERA) are the top returning starting pitchers.
First baseman Zach Their (.356, 15 RBI), second baseman Ryan Knowles (.314, 24 runs, 12 steals), catcher Josh Swearingen (.250) and outfielders Jaylin Jennings (. 220, 13 runs, 4 triples) and Trevor Black (.194, 15 runs, 12 steals) round out the returning cast.
Gilbert, which finished 20-7 last year and made it to the District 7 playoff final, opens the regular season on Tuesday at Pelion and hosts Clinton in a non-region doubleheader on Saturday. The Tribe’s 5-3A pennant drive starts March 18 at home against Midland Valley.