WELLSBURG - Ron Ujcich returns for a seventh season as Brooke's baseball coach, but he didn't bring a lot of returning starters with him from a 9-14 team.
Graduating last spring were six starters - Kyle Wales, David Alward, Shane Paesano, Bill Perkins, Justin Porco, and Zack Hartman - and eight seniors, meaning the opportunity was there when spring practices began.
''We are going to look to some young kids to step up and take over empty positions,'' Ujcich said. ''Our younger kids got experience with some key injuries early last season.
One place they need not worry is behind the plate as Nick Breen, already a two-time all-stater, returns for his senior season. Breen, who also pitches and plays third base, hit .447 with 12 doubles, two triples, and two home runs last season.
He'll be gunning to make a fourth straight All-Valley team.
Middle infielder Steven Jeffries, a senior, also returns after hitting .350 and getting on base 44 percent of the time last season.
Heath Hildreth, who saw significant playing time as a freshman a season ago and walked more times than he struck out, eyes a breakout season. Juniors Alec Buchmelter, the quarterback on the school's football team, Austin Schambach, and senior Brent Pellen also return.
Pellen played infield and pitched, working more than 20 innings last season.
Rounding out the roster are senior letterman Paul DiPasquale, who can pitch, catch, and play outfield, junior outfielder Ricky Molnar, sophomore outfielder Russell Schwertfeger, sophomore pitcher David Hardisty, sophomore second baseman/outfielder Kelaen Welch, sophomore outfielder/pitcher Ethan Sole, sophomore pitcher/infielder Shawn Ashbrook and freshmen Aaron Walker Pitcher, Infield) and Mario Lombardi (Pitcher, first base, outfield).
''Pitching and Defense are always the keys to winning games,'' Ujcich said. ''I feel that if our pitchers throw strikes and we make the routine plays behind them on defense, we are capable of winning ballgames.
"We have a good group of seniors returning that we are going to turn toward for leadership on and off of the field.''
Assistant coaches at Brooke are Frank Sisinni, Nick Croce, Jason Cuomo, Todd Ujcich, John White, Mark Schwertfeger, and Tim Pannett.
The schedule is heavily frontloaded with away games, while the Bruins will be at home for much of the second half of the season.
BROOKE 2012 BASEBALL SCHEDULE
Mar. 26: at University5 p.m.
Mar. 27: at Indian Creek5 p.m.
Mar. 28: at Morgantown6 p.m.
Mar. 30: at Toronto5 p.m.
Mar. 31: Parkersburg South (2)1 p.m.
Apr. 2: at Wheeling Park5 p.m.
Apr. 3: Bishop Donahue5:30 p.m.
Apr. 4: Steubenville5 p.m.
Apr. 5: Magnolia5:30 p.m.
Apr. 7: at Wheeling Central (2)Noon
Apr. 9: Toronto5 p.m.
Apr. 10: University5 p.m.
Apr. 11: at Magnolia5:30 p.m.
Apr. 12: Morgantown6 p.m.
Apr. 13: at John Marshall5 p.m.
Apr. 16: at Weir5 p.m.
Apr. 17: Indian Creek6 p.m.
Apr. 18: Wheeling Park6 p.m.
Apr. 20: John Marshall6:30 p.m.
Apr. 21: OVAC SemisTBA
Apr. 24: at Steubenville 5 p.m.
Apr. 25: Madonna6 p.m.
Apr. 26: at Bishop Donahue5 p.m.
Apr. 28: BellaireNoon
Apr. 30: Madonna5 p.m.
May 1: Weir5:30 p.m.
May 2: Linsly5:30 p.m.
May 3: Oak Glen5:30 p.m.
May 4: at Linsly5 p.m.
May 7: Sectionals (at Brooke)TBA