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Nine-year assistant baseball coach takes helm of Tigers' 2004 program

With the beginning of the 2004 season looming, the Oakville Senior High Tigers are looking to not only repeat their accomplishments on the baseball diamond from last year, but also improve them.

"We're coming off a district championship from last year and have a lot of those players back," first-year head coach Rich Sturm told the Call.

A 1990 alumnus of Oakville Senior High, Sturm takes over the helm of the Tigers' program after serving as the team's assistant coach for the last nine years. Sturm also has served as the head softball coach at Oakville for the past two seasons.

It's safe to say that Sturm knows of the Oakville baseball tradition and he too would like a shot at the district title and even a Suburban South Conference championship.

"I've been around the program for a long time," Sturm said. "The Suburban South is one of the top baseball conferences around so obviously we'd like to win that."

Starting at third base and also seeing some time on the mound this season will be senior Tim Andrew, who held a .342 average at the plate last season. He also drove in 22 runs on 26 hits, while racking up nine doubles and four home runs.

"Tim obviously had a really solid year for us last season," Sturm said. "He generates a lot of power and had some big hits for us as a junior."

On the opposite corner of the infield will be senior Eric Brewer, who will see time not only at first base, but also on the mound. Brewer had a record of 3-5 overall with 21 strikeouts and 21 walks with an earned run average of 7.50.

"Eric's really worked hard in the off-season and his confidence level is really high," Sturm said. "He's going to be someone who will be batting in the middle of the lineup for us."

At shortstop for the Tigers will be senior Ryan Gray, who also swings a strong bat at the plate. The senior batted a cool .323 and drove in nine runs on 21 hits with five doubles and one home run.

"This is Ryan's third year as starter and is going to be our team captain," Sturm said. "He's somebody we also hope can bat in the middle of the lineup."

The Tigers will look to senior Mike McComish to assume the second baseman duties again this season after having a strong season as a junior.

"Mike played second base for us as a junior and is expected to start for us a senior," Sturm said. "We're expecting good things from him offensively this season."

Behind the plate for the black and gold is senior Ben Kriegel.

"Near the end of the season, Ben came on really strong," Sturm said. "He's a vocal guy who's a positive influence on the team. The guys really look up to him."

Junior Andy Marks most likely will be the team's No. 1 pitcher this season after racking up a record of 6-3 overall and a 2.80 earned run average. Marks struck out 58 batters last season, while walking just 20. He also should see time in right field when he's not on the mound.

"Andy got a ton of experience last year as a sophomore," Sturm said. "He won some really big games for us and there's no question he's improved over last year."

Another pitcher/outfielder for the Tigers this season will be Chris Panopoulos.

"Chris won the district championship last year against Vianney as a pitcher," Sturm said. "He's a tremendous outfielder with a good arm and a solid bat."

The Tigers open up the season March 22 as they take on Fox in the first round of the Lindbergh/Mehlville tournament. The game is scheduled for a 4 p.m. start.

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