Essex baseball

Members of the 2020 Essex baseball team pose for a picture during a preseason practice. Front row, from left: Gage Sample, Payton Ashlock, Tony Racine, Tucker Hadden, Preston Driskell and Bradley Franks. Back row, from left: Seth Ward (head coach), Caden Henderson, Johnny Resh, Wesley Johnson, Dylan Barrett, Philip Franks and Todd Franks (assistant coach).

Photo courtesy Becki Franks

It’s a new-look season for Essex baseball.

The Trojans are their own team this season after sharing the sport with South Page the last few seasons. Essex also has a new coach in Seth Ward and he’ll be coaching a very young team.

Ward has 11 athletes in the program this season and only five of them have experience from last season’s two-win team.

“We are few in numbers and need to keep all the players healthy,” said Ward. “We’re hoping each of them has a good experience.”

Caden Henderson and Wesley Johnson are the two seniors on the team.

Both expect to see time on the mound after pitching a combined six innings last season. The pair combined for just one hit on offense last season and Ward is hoping their leadership can extend into good play on the field as well.

Tucker Hadden and Philip Franks also return as juniors. Hadden starts the season as the team’s top pitcher. His 9 1/3 innings pitched are the most of any returner. He held opposing hitters to a .191 average last season, but 12 walks jumped the ERA to 11.25. Offensively, Hadden hit .189.

Franks is Essex’s top returning hitter. He hit .286 with six runs scored last season and is expected to fill a utility role defensively.

Preston Driskell is the other returner for the Trojans. He played in two games last year, and is expected to take over one of the outfield positions.

The Trojans were hoping Jacob Robinette would be another returning player, but an arm injury has ended his season.

Ward said the returners are improving quickly, are showing good leadership and need to put up good numbers to lead the Trojans to a successful season.

The rest of the team is sophomore Dylan Barrett and a group of eighth graders. Ward said the young group has lower-level experience and shows potential.

“We have a very young team,” said Ward, “and some small-sized kids. I’m excited to see how they grow and what they can accomplish with this abbreviated season.”

Tony Racine, Gage Sample, Bradley Franks, Payton Ashlock and Johnny Resh make up the eighth grade group.

The Trojans play each of the other five Corner Conference schools once and take part in the Corner Conference Tournament to end the season’s second week. They only have one non-conference game scheduled, a home date with Shenandoah, Saturday, June 27.

Ward said the goal this year is continued improvement and building the confidence and cohesiveness of the team.

“We are trying to fit all the puzzle pieces together,” said Ward, “and do what’s best for the kids and the team.”

The Trojans open the season, Tuesday, June 16 at Stanton. The home opener is June 19 against Fremont-Mills. Sidney and Griswold also visit Essex for a conference game.

Essex hosts the Corner Conference Tournament finals, Friday, June 26.

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