by Anthony Sizemore, Student Sportswriter
ALC’s baseball team comes off an encouraging 2012 season. Last year, the team finished 24-22 and fourth in the conference. The record doesn’t tell the whole story of how the team played, though. There were some bright spots, such as Shane Pack leading the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in hits, and the team hitting .325, which was good enough for 15th best in the country. The hitting for the Eagles certainly was on point last season. It was the pitching side that gave Alice Lloyd problems. Shoring up the bullpen and making sure they can close out games is something that will be heavily emphasized this season.
“I think the most important thing is consistency on the mound,” says head baseball coach Scott Cornett. “We had some guys that were pretty strong, but we didn’t have enough depth and the back end of our bullpen wasn’t deep enough. We blew some games late that we had won or could have won with a little deeper pitching staff.”
Another downfall was the lack of stolen bases. The number of steals the ball club recorded last season was down compared to what Cornett teams have typically achieved in years past. That is another issue the Eagles’ mentor believes he and his coaching staff has addressed this past offseason on the recruiting front.
“Last year was probably the worst year we had on the base paths as far as stealing bases. We have got quite a bit more speed this year with some kids we have brought in,” Cornett said about base running. “It’s very, very important to be able to run the bases and create some offense, especially in low scoring games; that was also something that, last year, I felt had hindered us in close games. We couldn’t manufacture runs because we didn’t have a lot of team speed. This time, I feel like we brought in some kids that can really run, and that will help us on the base paths.”
Fielding is one of the most underrated aspects in all of baseball. However, it is also an important aspect of the game. The team committed more errors last season than in 2011. Cornett mentioned that the defense made key mistakes last season that were costly in some games. Fielding is something that the Eagles will need to improve if they want to have a strong 2013 campaign.
Much of the offense that attributed to the high team batting average will be back. Cody Hyden, a senior from Bristol, TN, will move from third base to first base and pitch this season. Junior left fielder from Louisa, Kentucky, Shane Pack, returns as a key element in the Eagles’ ability to put up runs. Hyden and Pack can absolutely obliterate the ball; they are a powerful tandem in the middle of the order.
Brandon Arnold is a senior center fielder from Kingsport, Tennessee and plays outstanding defense. Arnold committed just one error last season in 42 games and hits for a high average, as well. Trae Minton should occupy the last outfield spot in right. Minton (sophomore from Harrogate, Tennessee) will provide a spark on the base paths for the Eagles. Bobby Caldwell, a junior from London, KY, will be catching. Ben Ray is a junior from Danville, Kentucky and will play second base. The third base position is still to be determined as Joey Stamper (senior from St. Helens, Kentucky), Tanner Hensley (freshman from Manchester, Kentucky), and Greg Wright (sophomore from South Charleston, West Virginia) jockey for the starting job. No official word on who will be starting at shortstop yet either, but Dustin Williams (sophomore from Bristol, Virginia) appears to be the frontrunner for the spot.
Josh Arnold (sophomore from Kingsport, Tennessee) will be the backup catcher. The rest of the infielders are as follows: Wyatt Hamilton (junior from Pound, Virginia), Zach Hancock (freshman from Jonesborough, Tennessee), Jake Bales (sophomore from Somerset, Kentucky), Will Hamilton (sophomore from Pound, Virginia), Nathan Carter (freshman from Washington Court House, Ohio), Josh England (freshman from Manchester, Kentucky), Travis Hall (Pennington Hall, Virginia), Connor Owens (freshman from Garrison, Kentucky) and Jake Woolwine (freshman from Charleston, West Virginia).
The other outfielders will look like this: Kevin Smith (sophomore from Combs, Kentucky), Josh Mills (sophomore from Louisa, Kentucky), Derek Walzer (senior from Whitesburg, Kentucky), Brandon Chaney (freshman from Irvine, Kentucky), Patrick Barnett (freshman from Bowling Green, Kentucky), Timmy Sublett (freshman from Meally, Kentucky) and Jessie Wilks (sophomore from London, Kentucky). Chaney will also be pitching.
Neil Dillon and Wayne Sparks will be anchoring the pitching staff. A year ago, Dillon (junior from Wayne, Kentucky) was tied for the team lead in strikeouts and 2nd on the team in innings pitched and started the 3rd most games for the staff. Cornett says he has big expectations from Dillon this season. Sparks (junior from Coal Grove, Ohio) has a powerful arm and when he is on, he can be very difficult to hit. He has a curveball, knuckleball, and slider in his arsenal, too.
Other pitchers include Andrew Riley (junior from Wayne, West Virginia), Chance Westerfield (freshman Annville, Kentucky), Daniel Burgess (freshman from Charleston, West Virginia), Ian Delaney (sophomore from Ashland, Kentucky), Mackenzie Hicks (sophomore from London, Kentucky), Ryan Burrow (sophomore from Kingsport, Tennessee), Jarred Tate (sophomore from Bluff City, Tennessee), Aaron Boling (freshman from Bristol, Tennessee), Jordan Horn (sophomore from Richmond, Virginia), and Jeremy Power (freshman from Mount Sterling, Kentucky).
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