The Eagles, who had no seniors last year, will look to improve on last year?s 3-13 record. Eight returning starters will anchor the effort.
Seniors Jacob Dailey and Jacob Struber return as starters for the Eagles.
Dailey contributed at third base, first base and pitcher last season. He batted .214 and went 1-2 on the mound.
Struber saw time in left field and on the mound. He hit .235 and had an 0-2 record on the mound.
Three junior starters return: Nick Bray, Connor Farnham and Tanner Kling?ensmith. All three were called upon to pitch last season. Bray went 0-2, Farn?ham 1-2 and Klingensmith 1-4.
Bray contributed at first base and hit .295; Farnham saw time at shortstop and batted .288; and Klingen?smith played catcher and batted .286.
Three sophomores round out the Eagles? returning starters: Chris Miller (catcher, outfield); Caleb Sovde (outfield, utility) and Ethan Loyd (centerfield).
Three freshmen may contribute this season: Reed Wiens (second, pitcher); Jordan Gagnebin (utility, pitcher) and Hunter Pearson (catcher, first).
One strength of the team is increased depth, Nelson said, meaning the Eagles will be able to play junior varsity games in addition to varsity.
Players gained experience during the summer.
?After coaching them for two summers and last season, they know what to expect from me,? Nelson said. ?(We had) a very successful summer season.?
Another strength of the team is a positive attitude, Nelson said.
A challenge this year will be performance at the plate.
?We only had one .300 hitter last year,? Nelson said.
He also would like the Eagles to improve on the mound. ?Pitching needs to have less walks and better pitch location,? he said.
The Eagles are part of the Heart of America league, which sent three teams to state last season: Marion in Class 3A, and Inman and Ell-Saline in 2-1A. Ell-Saline won the state title. Southeast of Saline and Hillsboro also will provide a challenge, Nelson said.
Despite facing a tough schedule, the Eagles have high goals for the season, Nelson said.
?We split with one state team (last season), so we want to win the regional this year,? he said.
Canton-Galva will open its season at Ell-Saline Thursday. The Eagles will host Bennington Tues?day in their home-opener.