Hornets looking to get mix of young and old

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 25, 2003

COAL GROVE - If the young mix just right with the old, the Coal Grove Hornets could come of age.

Coach John Jones has 10 upperclassmen who form the nucleus, but four freshmen and a sophomore fill in some key spots and offer backup help.

"We've got a good mixture of old and young," Jones said. "We still don't have a lot of experience. Matt Winters, Tim Elliott and Matt Spears are the only seniors who played last year. Luke Tackett and Tommy Pemberton are the only juniors with regular varsity time."

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Besides a mixture of veterans and rookies, Jones thinks pitching and a solid infield will hold the key to the team's success.

Freshman Nick Bazell, Pemberton, Spears and Tackett will comprise the bulk of the pitching staff.

"Tommy will be our number one for sure, but anyone of the others can be our number two guy," Jones said. "Bazell is a freshman who has good control and throws about as hard as Tommy. He's been a real surprise.

"Tackett has learned how to throw a curveball and he's throwing a little harder. If he mixes them up he'll be effective. He has good control. And we'll use Spears when needed. We'd prefer to keep him at shortstop."

Spears is shifting from third base to play short. Bazell will be at third base, Tackett is the second baseman, and either Aaron Kelly, Matt Malone or Pemberton will be at first base.

Winters returns as the catcher with freshman Mason Schug the backup.

"Our infield defense is deep and pretty solid. It's hard to say how good the pitching is. The four we have look pretty good, but we won't know for sure until we start playing," Jones said.

Colton Hitchock will backup third base when Bazell pitches. Freshmen Brian Bryant and Randy Wise also will provide backup help in the infield.

Randy Wise will be the utility infielder. Jones said Wise "isn't very big, but he has a good, strong arm. He handles himself well around the bag. Aaron Abt also plays a good second base and hit the ball pretty well. And Steve Murphy could help us out playing some first or third."

Elliott is the only returning outfielder. He'll be in center field flanked by Justin Fairman in left field and either Kelly or Malone in right field.

"We're looking for outfielders. Elliott is the only returning outfielder we have. Kelly and Malone have always been infielders, but we're taking a look at them in the outfield. They're both good contact kids at the plate and they're working hard," Jones said.

"Tim is hitting the ball better and he's attacking the ball better. Tim covers a lot of ground and knows what to do. He knows how to run the outfield. He'll be a good outfielder."

If the Hornets get the right mix, they could use a little luck, too. Last year, Coal Grove finished 10-9 but lost five games in the seventh inning. The Hornets were third in the Ohio Valley Conference race.

Jones sees a wide-open race in the OVC.

"I'd have to say Fairland and South Point would be among the favorites, and I think Rock Hill could be pretty good, too," Jones said.