Experienced Warrior baseball team looks to successful season
By Andy Southard | March 12, 2018 7:56 am
As the calendar heads toward the official start of spring in a few days, spring sports will officially get underway this week. The White County High School Warrior baseball team, led by a group of three seniors, will get its season underway, on March 12, vs. Cookeville.
Coach Shaun Floyd begins his seventh season at the helm of the Warrior program. WCHS went 11-22 last season and lost four seniors off of last year’s team. The Warriors will return seven position players off of last year’s team and two of their top three pitchers.
This season, Floyd will look for a new group of seniors to lead the Warriors on the diamond. Floyd talked about his seniors.
Maverick Jennings: “Maverick is a guy that has developed over the last couple of years. He was voted as one of our captains this year. He has worked hard on his pitching, and we are expecting him to help us on the mound this season. He has worked extremely hard over the off-season. He has several different offers to play college baseball, and I believe he has decided on going to Berea in Kentucky. We expect Maverick to provide us with leadership on and off the mound. He is the heart of our team. He doesn’t say a lot, but when he speaks, the team listens.”
Jason Maxwell: “Jason is another one of our captains. He was voted captain for the second year in a row. Jason has worked extremely hard this year. He will anchor first base for us as well as pitch some for us. He will also hit in the middle of our lineup. He provides us with some real pop and has worked hard on driving the ball to all parts of the park. As of right now, we are looking to have him as our closer in close games. He throws the ball with good velocity and great movement. We expect him to provide us with leadership on the field. “
Frankie Del Toro: “Frankie Del Toro has worked extremely hard this off-season on his overall game. He has great speed in the OF and on the base paths. He puts pressure on teams by his speed. He is a guy that we expect to compete on a daily basis for one of our OF spots. He has worked hard on his hitting and has come a long way. We are excited about what he brings to our team. He is a hard-working kid and a natural leader. He is usually one of the first guys on the field and one of the last guys to leave. He sets the tone for our guys.”
Floyd was also asked about the strengths of his team.
“Like years past, I believe the strengths of our team will be defense as well as pitching,” said Floyd. “We might not have an Ethan Roberts’ arm on this squad, but we have seven or eight guys that throw it with great command and movement. We have depth in our pitching staff, which will help us throughout the season. Our defense is also deeper than it was last season. We had an extremely young team last year, and they were all able to get experience on the field. I believe this will make them much better going into this year on how we handle situations.”
As far as concerns, Floyd thinks the Warriors might struggle offensively at times.
“Our biggest concern this year will be offensively,” said Floyd. “I believe we are much improved from last season but still have to prove we are capable of putting up runs. We will have to play to our strengths offensively. We will play small ball and use our speed to put pressure on the defense.”
Floyd sees these returning players as individuals who could impact how their season goes.
“With most of our team returning from last year, we have several returning impact players,” said Floyd. “Jason Maxwell will be returning and anchor first base for us as well as hitting in the middle of our lineup. David Smith will be back and will handle third base for us as well as one our top returning arms on the hill. Macon Girdley will be back and will play second base for us as well as returning as one of our starters on the mound. Drew Young will be playing shortstop and will also add to our pitching depth. Chris Mills will play outfield for us and provides us with a consistent bat in the lineup. Hayden Farris will play RF for us and will serve again as our leadoff hitter. He will also add pitching depth for us. Eli McDonald will be behind the plate for the second year in a row and will provide us another consistent hitter at the plate. Dyson Reece will also be back and will provide us a steady outfielder. Maverick Jennings will also be returning as a big arm for us. He saw time last year out of the bullpen, and we expect him to take the next step this year and be huge for us.”
As far as newcomers, Floyd thinks these players might make an impact.
“I think we have several guys that I wouldn’t necessarily call newcomers but will see significant playing time this year that didn’t get much time last year,” said Floyd. “Cameron Beasley, Frankie Del Toro, Jacob Sparks, Holden Howard, Zach Burrier, Will Griggs, and Dustin Guy were on the team last year but didn’t see much time. They are all worked hard this offseason to get ready for this season, and we expect them to step up and make a huge impact for us. As far as freshman are concerned, Tucker Allen is a freshman that we expect to make an immediate impact in the field. He will handle S.S. and second base for us when Drew and Macon pitch. He has also been impressive so far at the plate. Grant Slatten is another freshman we believe that could make an immediate impact once he gets his arm in condition after returning from basketball. He could also provide us with defensive depth in the infield.”
With pitching being a strength for the Warriors, Floyd talked about his pitching staff.
“Our pitching staff will be big for us as we gained a lot of experience last year and look to build upon that,” said Floyd. “We have Macon Girdley and David Smith returning as two of our starters from last year. Both of these guys will be in the top of our rotation. Maverick Jennings is a guy that threw a lot of innings for us, and we expect him to do the same for us this year. Drew Young is a guy that got some time on the mound last year and has made significant improvements this offseason. Holden Howard is another guy that seen several innings last year, and we believe now that he is back healthy he will help us on the mound. Jason Maxwell and Hayden Farris are guys that didn’t throw a lot for us last year but have the potential to be significant arms for us. They have had a great off-season, and we are excited to see what they can do. Tucker Allen is a freshman that has a live arm with good control that could see some big innings for us, as well as Grant Slatten when we get his arm back into shape from basketball. Other guys that will see some time for us this year are Zach Burrier, Chris Mills, and Will Griggs.
Historically, some of the Warriors’ most significant problems have come at the plate. Floyd talked about his expectations at the plate.
“Offensively, I believe (we) will be much improved from last season,” said Floyd. “We were able to gain valuable playing experience last season, and we have worked hard on making little adjustments. We will still be a small ball team. We will get runners on and move them over with hopes of driving them in.”
Floyd also talked about their keys to success this year.
“I believe the keys to our success this year will be being able to put runs on the board,” said Floyd. “I believe that our pitching and defense will be able to keep us in the games we just have to be consistent in putting runs on the board.”
He also talked about his team’s goals.
“Our goals this year as a team is too finish at the top of our district and advance into region play,” said Floyd. “We have also set goals of being united in our approach and unselfish as a team. We have to be mentally prepared to step up when our number is called.”
Floyd also talked about his coaching staff.
“Our coaching staff this year will be Ryan Allen, Wesley Martin, Joseph Stockton, Bucky Floyd, and Christopher Wiles,” said Floyd. “Coach Allen is returning for this third year as an assistant. He will be our first-base coach and works with our infielders. Coach Allen is also our strength and conditioning coach. He is a fiery guy that puts everything he has into preparing our guys.
“Coach Martin is returning for his sixth season as an assistant but this year will be wearing a new hat, in addition to his other responsibilities. Coach Martin, with the departure of Coach Southard to softball, will be our pitching coach this season. Coach Martin has jumped right in on his new responsibilities and is working hard to continue the success we’ve had under Coach Southard with our pitching staff. In addition to being our pitching coach, he will also be our JV coach and works daily with our catchers.
“Coach Stockton is returning for his first full season, and he came on mid-season for us last year. Coach Stockton played for White County and was a three-year starter. He is a 2016 graduate of Warrior baseball and has returned to help us achieve the goals we set during his tenure. He will be working with our outfielders and helps with our hitting. He brings a young, energetic mind to our staff, and we are so excited to have him full time back with us.
“Coach Bucky will be returning for his seventh season as an assistant. He will serve as our bench coach and stats guy. He is a guy that helps keep our guys focused and motivated during the games. My dad has been with me my entire head coaching career, and it is always a pleasure having his wisdom and experience to lean on for advice.
“Coach Wiles is coming on for his first year with WCHS baseball. He has playing and coaching experience from the Middle Tennessee area as well as Indiana. Coach Wiles serves primarily as our Character Coach, but his baseball knowledge is a huge benefit. He will be available to our guys to help with the mental side of the game as well as fundamentals that he sees that need improvement. He is an invaluable asset to our program, and I am thankful for his willingness to donate his time to us.”
Floyd also talked about his outlook on the district.
“As always, Cookeville is the team to watch this year,” said Floyd. “They only lost three or four seniors last year, and I believe only two of those started for him. He is returning a very experienced group that won the district last season.
“Warren County graduated several seniors last season but have a new head coach. They will be very tough as always and have a positive outlook for this season. I believe that will be a very tough team to handle. I think Coach Powers will have them ready to play and may surprise a lot of teams.
“Rhea County also graduated several seniors last season, but they have some terrific young players coming up for them. They do return one of their big arms. I expect them to be very tough this season as always. They always swing it well.
“Stone Memorial will be a very young team this season, but they are very competitive. They will be a scrappy bunch that will improve throughout the season with experience.”
After opening up the season against Cookeville, on Monday night, on the road, the Warriors will take on Warren County at home, on Tuesday night. The Warriors will then head to Gatlinburg for the Cure 4 Cancer Tournament, March 16-18.