The Carthage baseball and softball teams open play this weekend on opposite coasts.

Carthage’s baseball team, coming off a 31-win season a year ago, begins its schedule today at the Tucson Invitational in Arizona against California Institute of Technology at noon.

The Carthage softball team, 21-21 last year, starts its 2019 campaign Sunday at 8 a.m. against Trine University at The Spring Games in Kissimmee, Fla., followed by a 10:15 a.m. matchup with Wartburg.

Expectations are high for the Carthage baseball team, which was picked second in a pre-season College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin poll.

“We do return some people from last year’s team, as we put together a very nice run,” longtime Carthage coach Augie Schmidt said. “I think we’re deeper than we have been in the past. It’s going to come down to who rises to the occasion and gets it done.

“Last year, we didn’t expect a lot after losing 25 seasons, and we ended up winning 31 games. This year, people are expecting more, so we’re going to have to wait and see how it all turns out.”

Anchoring the Red Men are a trio of returning players who saw action in all 43 games a year ago — seniors Ryan Kramer (outfield-second base) and Myles Farley (shortstop) and junior Vince Schwartz (first base).

Schwartz batted .345 last year with a team-high 57 hits and three triples. Kramer, junior Clayton Taylor (outfield) and sophomore Colton Klein (outfield) each batted .311 last season.

Junior Cody Phelps (infield) also returns after he was named to the All-CCIW second team a year ago. He batted .323 in 2018.

Expected to anchor the starting rotation are junior Nate Odahl, also a second-team pick, and sophomore Matt Willett. That duo combined for a 10-3 record and 77 strikeouts.

Junior Kyle Damon and sophomore Ben Rietz are the only other returners with starting experience, while the bullpen is anchored by junior Brian Polaski, who set a program record with 10 saves in 2018.

Tremper graduate Jacob Delabio (pitcher) transferred to Carthage from Northern Illinois and will look to contribute. Another Tremper product, Dante Guarascio, is a freshman pitcher on the Carthage roster.

Assisting Schmidt, who brings a 917-430-5 record into his 32nd year at the helm, are John Lequia, John Hasser, Joe Stevens, Gonzalo Gonzalez and graduate assistant Jordan Wiegold.

Carthage continues its Arizona trip Sunday with a rematch against Cal Tech at 8 a.m.

Softball picked second

Coaches in the CCIW picked the Reds to finish second after a season that saw them finish 9-7 in conference play. Carthage lost, 7-4, to Illinois Wesleyan in last season’s CCIW title tilt.

Leading the returners are senior Alex Millett (catcher) and junior pitchers Stefanie Guercio and Ellie Bernero, who each were All-CCIW second-team selections.

Millett batted .315 (40-for-127) last year, while Guercio was 12-6 with a 2.17 earned run average. Bernero, a Bradford graduate, was 3-8 with a 1.36 ERA and also batted .269 with two home runs and 10 RBI.

The other county player on the roster is Central graduate Rylee Johnson, a freshman outfielder.

Carthage is coached by Amy Gillmore, who brings a 479-328 record into her 22nd season. She is assisted by part-time coaches Dave Rivera and Ken Stilley.

Dan Truttschel