BAKER - East Hardy returns a solid group of players from last year's team, which lost to Madonna in the Class A state championship contest.
The Cougars open up their 2013 season Saturday at Frankfort for a non-conference doubleheader.
East Hardy, which finished 31-7 last year, lost a 4-3 decision to the Blue Dons in eight innings in the title contest.
The Cougars return seven seniors. They include third basemen Wyatt Basye, first basemen Brady Hinkle, third basemen Tyler Mongold, shortstop Korey Foltz, infielder Justin Basye, center fielder Shawn Skovron and right fielder Cody Walker.
"I'm hoping these guys can help lead us again," veteran East Hardy coach Raymond Snapp said. "They had good years last year and we need them to do the same again this year."
Mongold, Foltz and Skovron also saw time on the mound for East Hardy last year.
"We need big things from these three seniors on the mound," Snapp said. "We lost our big-time pitching from last year."
Junior second basemen-pitcher Cole Collier also returns with varsity experience for East Hardy.
Three sophomores - Michael Miller, Dylan Walker and Tyler Miller will also be battling for playing time this year.
"All three players saw time last year at the junior-varsity level," Snapp said. "I'm hoping we can get some good innings out of these guys this year and also from some of the younger guys."
The Cougars will look to replace three seniors from last year in Jaime Miller, Kollin Foltz and Noah Orndorff.
Miller, who was captain of the all-state first team, is currently playing college baseball at Potomac State College.
"It's going to be very tough to replace those seniors," Snapp said. "Miller and Foltz were our two top pitchers last year."
East Hardy's non-conference schedule includes Frankfort, Keyser, Petersburg, Musselman, Broaway, Va., Berkeley Springs, Man, Notre Dame and Washington.