Pitching, defense key for Fighting Tigers
Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 23, 2003
Baseball is a game based on pitching and defense. Ironton Fighting Tigers head coach Mark Lewis likes the defense, but the jury is still out on the pitching.
Last season, Matt White was 9-1 with a 1.00 earned run average. Kevin Williams was 4-0 with an 0.27 ERA. Chad Parker was 7-2 always throwing in the tough games.
But Parker has graduated and Williams is unable to pitch due to inflammation in his shoulder. That means juniors Josh Sands and Nick Collins will play a bigger role in the pitching picture.
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"Last year we had Chad (Parker) and Matt who did most of the pitching. It always comes down to pitching," Lewis said.
"We can be a pretty decent offensive team, but our pitching has to step up. Matt will give us a good effort. Josh hasn't thrown much in the past and and Nick Collins is an unknown. He's been a jayvee pitcher for two years."
Lewis added that Sands has "looked real good throwing the ball. Nick can throw, and we have Jameson (McKnight) and Sean McClellan. We'll need all of them early."
With seven starters returning from last season's 23-4 team, Ironton has the potential to put together another successful season. But Lewis is well aware there are no guarantees.
"When you have seven starters back, you expect to be good. But that's a wait-and-see thing. You only have a five-week season and things can happen. You have to get your game in order right away. You don't have a whole summer to straighten things out," Lewis said.
However, hawing a large group of seniors should be an added plus.
"Our seniors like to play. Their attitude has been good, so we hope to be improved and have some success," Lewis said.
Senior Tyler Whaley is back at first base for the third straight year. He hit .424 with five home runs and 31 runs batted in last season.
White shifts from third base to share the shortstop duties with Sands depending on who is pitching. Both are three-year starters.
White posted numbers of .392, three HRs and 28 RBI. Sands hit .351 with four homers and 18 RBI.
Williams (.365, 222 RBI, 13 of 14 stolen bases) will be at second base again while senior Jeff Parnell, a backup last year, takes over at third base.
"Parnell has taken to third base pretty well, and I'm pleased at shortstop. Josh is much stronger and Matt is a good athlete," Lewis said.
The catching position should be solid with senior Greg Mountain returning. He hit .349 with 21 RBI last season and struck out just seven times in 83 at-bats.
Derek Moore is back in left field where he hit .418 last season and stole 16 bases in as many attempts. Nick Collins takes over in center field with Chris Collins, senior A. J. McKnight, Jameson McKnight and McClellan all battling for the job in right field. Also getting a look is Patrick Kouns.
Lewis also plans to use an extra outfielder when Nick Collins pitches.
"The strength of our team lies in our defense and seven returning starters," Lewis said.
Ironton finished as district runners-up last season, but Lewis noted that "Our district for Division III will be as tough as any in the state."
Ironton Fighting Tigers
2003 Baseball Roster
A. J. McKnight,OF,12
Chris Collins, OF,11
Lou Mains, Toben Schreck, Tim Collins, Andy Mains.
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