When a team has a 30-10 record and is region runners up, most programs would say “great job.”
Harrison County’s Head Coach Mac Whitaker, while proud of the effort, was quick to point out what could have been done better.
“Last year we could not score with people on base,” lamented the veteran coach. “This year we have to improve on that and play without errors.”
The Thorobreds lost four starters and a key reserve from last year’s team plus a left-handed reliever.
Shortstop Xavier Carter, catcher Hunter Hill, outfielders Paul Jones and Josh Young along with first baseman Justin Nutter are the every day players gone plus pitcher Jeffrey Faulconer.
Carter, Hill, Jones and Nutter were starters who played regularly plus also Carter pitched on occasion.
The Breds do not have an empty cupboard, however, coming back to defend the district championship in 2013.
The strength of the squad will be the starting pitching with two veteran seniors leading the way. Brandon Kendall and Jordan Martin return as two of the better pitchers not only in the region but in the state as well.
“One of the questions for this year will be the third and fourth starters,” said Whitaker. “We have four juniors and a couple of sophomores that we will evaluate. It will be trial and error until we see who can step up under the pressure.”
The four juniors are Nolan Brossart, John King, Christian Persinger and Jordan Riley. The sophomores in the mix are Alex Kinsey and Austin Reffett.
The catching position is a three-way battle between juniors Cody Anderson and Trevor Dixon along with sophomore Robbie Stroub.
The rest of the infield will be manned by eighth grader Brett Persinger at shortstop, and a group of pitchers at the other spots.
Kendall, Martin, King and Brossart along with sophomore Brandon Case will rotate at first, second and third depending on who pitched last.
The outfield has two starters returning in senior Cody Honeycutt and junior Zach Royce will form two thirds of the outfield patrol with sophomore Noah Mitchell and Brossart filling in the blank.
“We still have some work to do with the rest of the outfielders,” noted Whitaker. “In the next few days we are going to work on catching fly balls to see who else might help us.”
The 38th District is looking like a horse race this year with Nicholas County hosting the tournament.
The Bluejackets return nearly their entire squad with a quality left-handed starter in J.D. Wagoner.
Pendleton County has a new coach so they are an unknown this year.
“Josh Hamm did a great job with them the last couple of years,” said Whitaker. “It remains to be seen if they will continue his work.”
The Breds opener Tuesday with the Wildcats on the Hilltop was cancelled.
The 10th Region is also wide open.
Defending champion Brossart has three or four key players back, but, according to Whitaker, almost anyone could win the title.
“I don’t believe there is one team who can just show up and win. It will take a lot of effort and hard work to win this region.”
The highlights of the season before the tournament are the Hometown Pharmacy/Frank Shoop Invitational and the Harrison Memorial Hospital/McDonald’s Classic in April and the Judy Construction/Harrison County Invitational in May.
Alumni Night is May 3, when the Breds face Scott High and Senior Night will be May 15 with Walton Verona the guest on the Hilltop.
The Florida trip in early April will bring the varsity schedule to just over 40 games. Whitaker says his team needs to improve on hitting and overall team defense to make a long run in the tournament. History tells us that it very well could happen.