Preview: Franklin County baseball action
By Bart Moss
For the FCT
New Belgreen coach Derek Ergle knows that if he is going to be able to build a solid baseball program at Belgreen, he is going to have to have the community’s support. So far the Belgreen community has responded, and Ergle said he believes they are in the early stages of building something special for Belgreen to look forward to this spring.
“I am looking forward to guiding these young men as they strive to improve on and off the field,” said Ergle. “The school and the community have invested a lot of time and effort renovating the old baseball field in order to provide a safer playing environment and a more enjoyable fan experience.”
Ergle said he appreciates everyone’s commitment to making baseball better and thinks it will go a long way toward developing the program.
“If the kids see the adults take ownership and pride in the program, they will too,” said Ergle. “There is a tremendous amount of excitement going into the baseball season, which I hope will only grow every year.”
Phil Campbell Bobcats
After a solid run in the playoffs last year and most starters returning, Coach Jonathan Raper is expecting big things for his Phil Campbell Bobcats this year.
“We return a lot of players from last year’s team that either started or contributed quite a bit,” said Raper. “I think we have a chance to be competitive this year if we play good defense and our pitching improves. Our hitting needs to improve and needs to be more consistent.”
Phil Campbell returns starters Blake Jones, Gage Roberson, Hayden Copeland, Colby Baker, Joe Hardy and Peyton Thomas. Raper mentioned players like Jacob Anthony, Nick Swinney, Brody Nix, Mike Wrona, and Blake McAfee as players he expects to step up and play a role in this year’s teams success.
The Tharptown Wildcats will be led by first year head Coach Shannon Benford. The Wildcats return three starters – Max Nolen, Heath Hatton and Gabe Lawler.
Benford said he wants to build a baseball program based on hard work and show the community that baseball can be a solid program for the school.
“We have very few guys with varsity playing experience,” said Benford. “Our main goal this year is to generate some excitement back into the baseball program and learn how to compete. We are going to work hard at getting better every time we take the field.”
Benford listed his roster as Nathan Chaney, Gordie Figueroa, Logan Freeman, Ezequial Gonzalez, Heath Hatton, Britton Kennamore, Braden Key, Gabe Lawler, Levi McCormack, T.J. McDonald, Jacob Murray, Max Nolen, Mike Palmer, Carson Petree, Mikey Rosson, and Zack Wilson.
Red Bay Tigers
For Coach Richard Maggerise and the Red Bay Tiger baseball program, this is the type of season they have been waiting for – a season with high expectations. Red Bay finished last season with a 15-14 record but made a strong run into the playoffs, playing their best baseball at the season concluded.
“We have a very deep team of experienced players who want to win,” said Maggerise. “We felt like, at the end of the year, we were playing our best baseball, and we want to continue that into the season.”
The Tigers will return all of last season’s starters except for Honorable Mention All-State catcher Jade Pounds. Some of the key returners from last year’s team are Troy Borden, who boasted a .698 ERA and 68 strikeouts from the mound. Borden also hit .418 with five home runs and 34 RBIs, earning him a 2nd Team All-State honor.
Red Bay also returns 3B/CF Nick Thorn (.410 avg and 22 RBIs), C/P Colby Knoblock (struck out 28 batters), LF/P Houston McKinney, RF Josh Wilson, P/1B Landen Burgett, 2B Kaleb Burroughs, CF/P Chandler Allen, and Kolby Bragwell.
Vina Red Devils
Coach Greg Hamilton expects his Vina Red Devil baseball team to make some big strides this season, even though they are competing in a very tough area.
“We are excited about the upcoming season,” said Hamilton. “The players have worked very hard and want to win. We know we play in a tough area, but that is not going to stop us from competing to win the area. We feel like we have the guys who are capable of making good things happen for us.”
Some of the players Hamilton mentioned are junior Tyler Renfrow, junior Justin Gravitt, junior James Barnes, sophomore Hayden Murray, sophomore Austin Childers and freshman Jonathan Sullivan.