Orion diamond boys ready to play

Mindy Carls
Orion dugout stock

Orion High School’s baseball program has a new coach, Thomas Smith, who’s thrilled to be the top Charger.

The 2019 team, with a 17-10 record overall, won the Three Rivers West with an 8-2 record. After winning the Rockridge regional, they lost 3-2 to Brimfield in sectional semifinals at Farmington.

Last year the boys had their entire season wiped out by COVID-19. About 700 days elapsed before the Chargers were able to take the field again and claim their first win under Smith, an 11-1 thrashing of Monmouth-Roseville.

2021 officially falls in the summer season established that the IHSA established in order to fit all of its sports in. Fall sports, such as football and boys soccer, were moved to spring and left coaches managing athletes who had played another the night before.

Smith has only two returning letter winners, senior Jarrett Thornburg, a right-handed pitcher and utility player, and junior Quinn Hoftender, a left-handed pitcher, first baseman and outfielder.

Players need to the varsity roster include juniors Chance Stropes, right-handed pitcher and infielder, Dathan Moore, infielder; Ty Comer, outfielder; Jared Mohr, right-handed pitcher and utility player; Payton Weaver, left-handed pitcher, first baseman and outfielder, and Gabe Laleman, right-handed pitcher and designated hitter.

Sophomores are Cole Kratzberg, right-handed pitcher and infielder; Drake Gunn and Connor Green, catchers, and Kile Johnson, outfielder and right-handed pitcher.

Freshmen are Kaden Edmunds, outfielder, and Derek Dykeman, right-handed pitcher and infielder.

Projected starters are Hoftender, left-handed pitcher, first baseman and center fielder; Thornburg, right-handed pitcher, shortstop and center fielder; Kratzberg, right-handed pitcher and shortstop; Stropes, right-handed pitcher and corner infielder; Moore, second baseman; Gunn, catcher; and Comer, outfielder.

“I believe we will compete this season,” Smith said. “We have a really young team, but that will bode well for us in the future. With every team in Illinois not playing since 2019, I’m expecting most teams to be young and inexperienced. We have a good young core, but our complementary players will have to step up for us this season.”

Smith most teams to have inconsistent years.

“Our focus is to do the little things right and take the season day-by-day,” the coach said. “If we can do that, I think we have a high ceiling.

Smith’s staff includes Trevor DeJaynes, varsity assistant and head junior varsity coach; Orion prep James Matson, varsity and JV assistant, and Kevin Wetherell, varsity and JV assistant.

Fans can follow the varsity and JV teams on GameChanger. Social media accounts are Orion.Baseball on Facebook, @Orion_Baseball and @Orion.Baseball on Instagram.