Youth movement begins for Golden Tigers in '05
Mike Self FCT Sports Editor
The next few months promise to bring a youth movement for Phil Phillips and the Russellville baseball team–in more ways than one.
Phillips' wife Jill is due with the couple's first child in April, by which time he hopes his callow baseball squad will have matured.
One thing is certain: Phillips should be a much more patient person by the time summer arrives.
"If I'm not, I need to make a change," said Phillips, entering his fourth season at Russellville. "I'll have to learn some patience."
Patience is a virtue, especially when you're counting on key contributions from several youngsters who will get their first taste of varsity action on Saturday when the Golden Tigers face Hatton in the Pepsi Invitational.
"The youth movement is on this year," Phillips said. "We kind of have a weird mix. We have eight seniors, seven freshmen and three sophomores. We're going to play a lot of different people."
Phillips knows that life with a young baseball team is bound to have its ups and downs.
"They're going to make some mistakes," he said. "Most of their mistakes will probably be mental rather than physical. As far as catching and throwing and things like that, they'll be fine, but they're going to make some mental errors."
Thankfully for Phillips, inexperience and youthful exuberance go hand in hand.
If the Golden Tigers are to earn a playoff spot in a new-and-improved area that now features Hartselle and Athens along with holdover Muscle Shoals, they will need several of their young players to grow up quickly.
Freshman Torey Baird is expected to share catching and DH duties with sophomore Seth Fergerson, who led the team with a .394 average last year.
Shortstop Cory Trapp and second baseman Corey Flanagan give the Golden Tigers a freshman double-play combo.
Centerfielder Caleb Mitchell completes an up-the-middle defense made entirely of freshmen.
Phillips will also count on contributions from freshmen Trey Hooper (third base, pitcher), Matt Crawford (outfield, LHP) and Josh James.
Fergerson gives the Golden Tigers a big stick in the middle of the lineup, and fellow sophomore Jaycee Wilson shapes up as Russellville's No. 2 starter behind senior Craig Bullion.
Newcomer Patrick Hines is Russellville's third sophomore.
With so many young players playing key roles, senior leadership will be crucial to the Golden Tigers' chances for success.
Bullion will anchor Russellville's pitching staff and also play third base.
Senior Chris Swinney is a returning starter in the outfield, and he will be joined by Matt Humphries (left field), Nick Woods and newcomer Casey Phillips.
Seniors Aaron Harbin and Ty Cox give the Golden Tigers a productive righty-lefty combination at first base, and fellow senior Curt Thorne is back from a knee injury he suffered early in football season.
The Golden Tigers open their season on Saturday at the Pepsi Invitational at Deshler. They will also play next Monday, Tuesday and Friday.