by Anthony Sizemore, Student Sports Reporter
The Alice Lloyd Eagles baseball team looks to build on the experience and wisdom accrued from the 2013 season. It is a veteran-laden roster with a mixture of good hitters and pitchers that have logged a lot of innings.
When asked about his expectations of the team going into the 2014 season, head baseball coach Scott Cornett was excited about the potential that this team has.
“We’ve got most of our lineup back and quite a few of our top-notch pitchers (back),” Cornett said. “We’re hoping that we have a good, solid ball club. We are going to start quite a few veterans and have some experience on the mound. We are hoping for a good season this year.”
In 2013, the Eagles took a step back with having some new players and went through growing pains with the young but raw talent. This season, Cornett expects this team to play with a lot more consistency and to increase the number of wins.
Coach Cornett loves what the veterans bring to the table.
“It is very important to know what to do in a critical situation. The veterans have been through the wars, they know what’s coming and they know the speed of the game. They seem to be a little calmer in most situations. It helps when you have that experience, and it makes a difference in your ball club.”
The pitching philosophy hasn’t changed for Cornett and the coaching staff. It is all about pitching to contact and making the opposition put the ball in play. Throwing strikes is crucial, especially early in the count. Coach Cornett says the pitching staff does not consist of a lot of “power arms,” so making the other team put the ball in play and keeping the pitch count low is paramount. Making the opposition put the ball in play also keeps the defense alert.
Cornett says that the team speed is good this year and that bodes well, especially on the base paths. He also raved about this team’s ability to put the bat on the ball and score runs.
“We have quite a bit of team speed this year,” the coach said. “We love to run. That is something that I have always liked to do. I like to put pressure on the defense so we will hit and run quite a bit. We have got several guys that can stretch the bases, and we will try to steal some bases. That is what we believe in and what we do. We want to swing the bat; we’ve always been pretty good offensively here. I think this is another year that we will be good too.”
Cornett wants his team to show improvement in the field as well. Another aspect to keeping pitch counts low is making the plays that need to be made in the field and cutting down on errors. If Alice Lloyd can play good defense, then that will go a long way towards being competitive and winning a lot of games.
The Eagles lost a huge piece of the team in Brandon Arnold. (Arnold graduated last year.) Arnold was a terrific outfielder that did a little bit of everything, but Coach Cornett has high praise for his projected replacement, sophomore Alex Dapkus. Cornett says that Dapkus has “a lot of talent” and that he expects him to have “a major impact immediately.”
Shane Pack will be back to anchor the heart of the lineup for Alice Lloyd. Ben Ray displays a quick release of the ball at second base and has good speed. Trae Minton had 12 steals a year ago and makes it hard on the opponent to get a hit when he is roaming in the outfield. Bobby Caldwell will be mentoring the pitching staff behind the plate while third base and shortstop will be platooned. Jake Bales will get the nod at first base.
Neil Dillon and Wayne Sparks will anchor the pitching staff once again. Dillon led the team in wins, earned run average, strikeouts and innings pitched in 2013 while Sparks can be very difficult to hit when he is on, with a fastball in the 90s.
Projected Starting Lineup
C – Bobby Caldwell (Senior from London, Kentucky)
1B – Jake Bales (Junior from Somerset, Kentucky)
2B – Ben Ray (Senior from Danville, Kentucky)
3B – Tanner Hensley / Greg Wright (Sophomore from Manchester, Kentucky / Junior from South Charleston, West Virginia)
SS – Wyatt Hamilton / Josh Hancock (Sophomore from Pound, Virginia / Sophomore from Jonesborough, Tennessee)
LF – Shane Pack (Senior from Louisa, Kentucky)
CF – Alex Dapkus (Sophomore from Richmond, Kentucky)
RF – Trae Minton (Junior from Harrogate, Tennessee)
SP – Neil Dillon (Senior from Wayne, West Virginia)
SP – Wayne Sparks (Senior from Coal Grove, Ohio)
SP – Chance Westerfield (Sophomore from Annvil, Kentucky)
RP – Jarrod Tate (Junior from Bluff City, Tennessee)
RP – Mackenzie Hicks (Junior from London, Kentucky)
RP – Ryan Burrow (Junior from Kingsport, Tennessee)
RP – Ian Delaney (Junior from Ashland, Kentucky)
RP – Daniel Burgess (Sophomore from Charleston, West Virginia)
RP – Justin Smith (Sophomore from Manchester, Kentucky)
RP – Logan Condra (Freshman from Rogersville, Tennessee)
RP – Jordan Horn (Junior from Richmond, Kentucky)
RP – Chris Delgado (Freshman from Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
C – Ronnie Saylor (Freshman from Lancaster, Kentucky)
IF – Judd Hammons (Freshman from Mountain City, Tennessee)
IF – Josh England (Sophomore from Manchester, Kentucky)
IF – Jake Woolwine (Sophomore from Charleston, West Virginia)
IF – Dustin Williams (Junior from Bristol, Virginia)
IF – Will Hamilton (Junior from Pound, Virginia)
OF – Josh Mills (Junior from Louisa, Kentucky)
OF – Kevin Smith (Junior from Combs, Kentucky)
OF – Patrick Barnett (Sophomore from Bowling Green, Kentucky)
OF – Ryne Loggins (Sophomore from Bristol, Virginia)
OF – Brandon Chaney (Sophomore from Irvine, Kentucky)
OF – Timmy Sublett (Sophomore from Meally, Kentucky)
OF – Corey Dollarhide (Sophomore from Jenkins, Kentucky)
The Eagles kick off their season on Thursday, February 20th, with a game at Hiwassee College. The game is scheduled for 1 PM. Then, on February 22nd and 23rd, the team will return to their home field for games versus Ohio-Chillicothe at 1 PM each day.