With eight of nine baseball starters returning --four of whom were All-Area picks last season -- the Carlyle Indians are drawing all kinds of attention from area coaches.
The Indians were 15-13 a year ago and won four of their first five games this season with a roster as deep and talented as any small-school team around.
"Everybody's back for the first time in a while, we don't have to worry about the little stuff as much," Carlyle coach Dusty Barr said, noting most of his seniors are four-year starters and most juniors have started for three years. "You can work on your reps because the kids know what's expected and what to do. They're just kids that are good athletes and play all the sports."
The team's two first-team All-Area picks from last season -- second baseman-shortstop Tyson Boehne and catcher Kyle Jackson --have signed with McKendree University.
As good as Boehne (.382, seven doubles, three homers, 24 RBIs) and Jackson (.358, 10 doubles, two homers, 16 RBIs) were, they weren't even Carlyle's top hitter last spring.
That was junior first baseman Matt Hilmes, who erupted for a .424 average, 11 doubles, four triples, four homers and 32 RBIs as a sophomore.
Also returning are senior outfielder Cody Huels (.395, six doubles, 18 RBIs), junior outfielder John Becker (.309, five homers, 26 RBIs) and junior shortstop-pitcher Logan Zachry (4-3, 1.50 ERA, 47 strikeouts in 42 innings).
Junior Josh Palsenberger (.306, 11 RBIs) is also in the outfield with sophomore Tommy Cummins.
Most of the pitching staff returns led by Zachry, Boehne (3-3, 2.75 ERA), Huels (2-3, 2.79 ERA), Hilmes, Becker and Cody Jackson. Hilmes and Huels are both left-handers.
"It' a different expectation this year than what we've had," Barr said of the preseason hype surrounding the Indians. "We've expected to compete with these guys the last couple years and being young and competing felt satisfying.
"But these kids expect to win now, they don't just expect to compete any more. When you expect to win that adds a little bit of pressure, but it's good pressure."