Baseball looks for a strong 2013 season
There is one notable thing about this season’s Highland Cavalier baseball team: they’re young.
With only seven seniors on the team, Head Coach Hank Banner’s squad is coming off of a 24-26 record and an 8-12 record in Mid-South Conference play last season.
The Cavs progressed all season and by the conference tournament they were ready to surprise and advanced to the semi-final round.
The 2013 season returns two all Mid-South performers in catcher Tommy Meier and outfielder Brett Hylton, both looking to finish their collegiate careers strong.
Hylton was the team’s power source a season ago, leading the Cavs in home runs, runs batted in, total bases and slugging percentage.
Looking to get on base in front of Hylton will be Meier. Meier led the Cavs in batting average, hits, runs and stolen bases.
These two play a vital role in scoring runs for the Cavs and accounted for 132 of the 234 runs scored by the Cavs in 2012.
Seniors Brian King, Chaz Hall and Kirk Jennings are also back for the Cavs. King is a career .300 hitter and provides excellent defense in the field. Hall is making the transition over to second base.
He will go down as one of the toughest players in Cavs history, starting in more than 120 games in his career so far. Jennings will provide the Cavs with power off the bench and at the designated hitter position.
Junior transfer Tyler Hutson provides the Cavs with a powerful bat and will more than likely see most of his time at either first base or designated hitter.
Another junior transfer, Michael McCollum is set to be the starting third basemen for the Cavs this season. Redshirt freshman Ty Lighton will takeover the shortstop position.
Joining Hylton and King in the outfield will be a combination of sophomores Matt Murphy and Brandon Fletcher, junior Ryan Apodaca and former Cavs’ quarterback Tye Marshall.
Marshall is coming off of playing two years for the Cavs’ football team and hasn’t played baseball since his senior year of high school. Marshall is a versatile player who is expected to see time in the field and on the mound.
Assistant Coach Doug Bates, who manages pitching, will look to replace weekend starters Cody Bentley and Ryan Crosby for the 2013 season. Returning for the pitch will be ace senior Justin Wilson.
Wilson proved to be the Cavs most reliable starter a season ago, as he posted an earned run average of 2.43 over a span of 74 innings and held opposing batters to a startling .208 batting average.
Junior transfer Cody Compton and sophomore Ben Coffman are set to join Wilson in the weekend rotation.
The Cavs will use an array of pitchers during weekday games since they have plenty of arms – 15 are listed on the opening-day roster.
Senior Ryan Ward, junior Josh Massie, and sophomores R.W. Payne and Travis Weaver return as the only other pitchers on the roster that have experience.
The Cavs will need to get used to playing away from home, since they will play most of their early season games on the road in warmer weather.
The Cavs are scheduled to play their first home game on Feb. 16 when future conference foe Urbana University visits for a three-game series.
On March 1 the Cavs will open up the Mid-South Conference schedule with a trip to the University of Pikeville.
The Mid-South Conference coaches preseason poll predicts that the Cavs will finish ninth this season.