In April 7 Issue
Coming off a record 30-9 season a year ago where they went undefeated in 16th district play and runners-up in the region, Coach David Rexroat's Russell County Laker baseball squad is primed for another run at the 4th region title and he has the talent to do it.
"I guess expectations are pretty high for us," Rexroat said. "The pre-season polls came out and usually they don't mean a whole lot but I guess you could say we were 26th in the state so everybody will be gunning for us when they play us."
He said the team has much of their talent returning from a year ago despite losing four quality seniors from last season's team.
"We've got a lot of experience coming back from last year and we've got a lot of our pitching back so that is going to be a plus," he said.
Rexroat said he was excited about this year's senior group of Taylor Hutchison, Jared Coffey, Martin Cross and Alex Selby and the leadership they will provide throughout the season.
Pre-season all-state junior Hunter Best, who finished with a batting average above .500 last season, is one of the region's best contact hitters and the Lakers will relish having him near the top of the lineup again this year.
A slew of pitchers, including sophomore Tyler Robertson, Cross, Best, and junior Caleb Russell lead the way with nine to 10 more pitching candidates waiting, Rexroat said.
Underclassmen Blake Aaron, Garret Stephens, Evan Selby, Jalen Bennett, Lucas Whittle, Steve Sanders and Cody Robertson were also mentioned by Rexroat as pivotal contributors to this year's varsity roster.
Rexroat, who won his 200th high school game as a coach last season, said he expects his team's power to come from a variety of Lakers.
"I think our overall hitting will be better this year," he said. "We've got some guys that are stronger this year for the simple fact that they're more mature and older."
The Laker coach said he didn't know if his team would hit as many homeruns this season as last but that he expected his team to hit more gap to gap hits.
"Taylor, Blake and Evan … we've got a lot of guys who have some speed," he said. "Hopefully our doubles and triples ratio will be up."
Rexroat said his team, while young, has had a lot of success at various levels of baseball through the years.
"They know how to win, they don't accept being defeated," Rexroat said. "Last year we'd get behind and in the 4th or 5th inning we would come back and win the ballgame."
The Lakers will travel to Florida over Spring Break to participate in the Florida Beach Bash for the second straight season and will also participate in the Boyle County Invitational and the Louisville Invitational later this season.
"We've got the physical ability, we've got the defense, we can run … it is going to be the mental part of the game, we've got to step out on the field and think that no one can beat us," he said.
Rexroat also said he has a good crop of freshman coming in, many of whom may some varsity playing time as the season progresses.
Assisting Rexroat this season will be longtime pitching coach Rob Clark and volunteer coaches Pat Back, Trey McGowan and Steve Mitchell.