Head coach: Eric Collins (4th season). Assistant coaches: Frank Abate, Neal Cobleigh, Keith Kennedy, John Viele, Josh Viele.
Last year: Wheeler finished 7-13 overall and 2-10 in ECC Division III. The Lions missed out on the Class S tournament by virtue of a computer-generated number used for a tiebreaker.
Returning to varsity:
Juniors: Bowen Baker (P-1B), Aidan Cameron (C), Connor Melinosky (2B), Cameron Reyes (RF), Justin Veal (CF-P). Sophomores: Lukas Jones (SS-P), Jake Neddeau (OF).
New to varsity:
Senior: Krishtion Pesante (1B-DH). Freshmen: Tyler Burdick (3B-P), Eric Henderson (IF-OF), Andrew Patrick (OF), Manny Peterle (OF), Matt Pierce (1B-C-OF), Spencer Reichert (1B), Tim Robarge (OF).
Outlook: Wheeler returns a top-of-the-line pitcher in Baker, who threw a no-hitter and struck out 16 on Monday in the Lions’ season-opening 3-1 win over Putnam. He went 3-4 with 71 strikeouts in 40 innings last season.
“He’s been clocked consistently in the low-to-mid-80s,” coach Collins said. “He’s got a curveball and he has good control of it. He has a good changeup. He’s the real deal on the hill.”
Baker will play first base when he’s not pitching. He hit .345 last season with 12 RBIs, second best on the team.
Jones and Veal with also get starts for the Lions. Collins is hopeful another starter will emerge so he can leave Jones at shortstop as much as possible. Veal also has “incredible range” in center field, Collins said.
Melinosky will play second, and Burdick will see time at third base. Cameron, who hit .359 last season, will catch.
“The first part of the season we are going to struggle hitting because we are so young,” Collins said. “But we’ve showed signs that we can put the bat on the ball. I think by the end of the season we might hit as well as we did last year.”
Coach’s take: “We want to get better every game and be in the hunt for the playoffs. I think if we can score some runs for Bowen we can make it. We don’t want to leave it up to the tiebreaker this season.”