Pitching staff expected to guide Warriors on diamond
By Sparta Live | March 2, 2014 12:00 am
WCHS baseball head coach, Shaun Floyd, will be looking to a deep pitching staff to lead the way for the 2014 Warriors.
Last season, WCHS finished with a 19-14 mark with the season coming to an end in the District 6AAA semifinals, in which they were swept by Cookeville. The Warriors went 4-8 in district play in 2013, but graduated six seniors off that team. Five of those seniors from last season received some sort of district honors. However, WCHS returns four players that also received league honors including three first teamers.
When asked to discuss what he feels will be strength of the team, Floyd says, “I believe the biggest strength of our team will be pitching depth. Out of 26 players, 22 of them will pitch for us in some capacity. I also believe we will be strong defensively this year and have some depth there as well”.
The success of the Warriors may indeed begin with the leadership of the six seniors, three of which started last season. The six seniors this season are Jake Young, Jalon Foster, Dustin, Cole, Blake Lynn, Daniel Winnett and River Boruff.
“We are expecting big things from our senior class,” noted Floyd. In addition to the three, Jalon Foster, Jake Young and Dustin Cole, that started last season, we also have Blake Lynn back that started as a sophomore. He would have started last year if it wasn’t for his hip surgery. All of our seniors have shown great leadership qualities so far. They are a great group of guys that love baseball and put max effort into it. We are going to rely on them heavily to be leaders on and off the field.”
Floyd talked about each of his seniors, some newcomers and some returners. Foster and Young were both first team all district last season and Cole was second team.
“Jake will be our starting catcher for the third year in a row. He does a great job keeping our pitchers in control and controlling the game. He also swung the bat extremely well for us last year and we need that from him again this season.”
“Jalon will be our starting 1st baseman for the 3rd straight season. Jalon led our team in hitting average last season and finished second his sophomore year. He also led us in homeruns the past two seasons. He is a guy that anchors the middle of the lineup for us. We will need him to have another great year at the plate in order for us to be successful.”
“Dustin will be our starting 2nd baseman and #2 pitcher on the bump for us this year. Dustin has started the previous two seasons and has great hands. Dustin is our biggest on-the-field leader. He always works hard and does the little things right. He has a great mentality and doesn’t let little things rattle him. Dustin will also be our trend setter at the plate. For the second year in a row, he will be hitting lead-off for us. He has great plate discipline and sets the tone for the rest of the team.”
“Blake will be returning this year as our starting centerfielder, after missing last season due to hip surgery. Blake started for us his sophomore year and has the confidence and ability to anchor the outfield for us. Blake will also be a guy we will rely on to pitch some for us this season. Blake has worked really hard this off season getting his swing and mechanics back at the plate and we expect him to have a great year.”
“Daniel is a great kid and extremely hard worker. He is a great guy to have on your team. He is a team player and is always willing to do whatever it takes to make the team better. He is always putting in extra work. We are looking for Daniel to pitch some for us as well as compete for the third base spot.”
“River is a first year player. He approached us about coming out to run bases for the team. River will be a huge asset on the field and in the clubhouse. He is a leader and knows what it takes to win and be successful. He will also bring some great speed for us on the bases.”
Floyd also talked about some other returning impact players, including Ethan M. Roberts, who was a first team all district selection last season.
“Ethan Roberts is a junior and will be starting for his third straight season. He will be our starting shortstop as well as the ace of our staff. Darin Cole is a sophomore that logged several innings for us on the mound last year. He will be our #3 this year on the mound. Joseph Stockton is also a guy that pitched a lot as a freshman last year and we will look for him to pitch in relief quite a bit again this season. Jacob Fresh is another guy that logged several innings for us in the infield last season. He will be rotating in the middle infield again for us this season.”
As far as new names that might make an impact on the diamond, Floyd discussed those as well.
“Andrew Sparks is a sophomore that didn’t play last year. He has come out to pitch for us this season and has shown great control and pitches to contact really well. I’ve been really impressed with him so far and really like his potential. Tyler Qualls, Ethan T. Roberts, Tyler Brock and Auston Glenn are not first year players but will be given the opportunity to start for the first time. I think all of these guys have a ton of potential and we expect big things from them.”
Earlier Floyd named pitching and defense as strengths of his team, but as is usually the case for the maroon and gray coming into a season, being productive at the plate is always a concern.
“Offense is always our biggest concern,” continued Floyd. “We lost six seniors last year that all started for us at some point. They provided a big part of our offense and we are going to have to find guys to step up for us. We may struggle early on. We do have some key hitters returning, but are going to have to rely on some young hitters to step up for us. I believe they have the talent to do it and the more live arm they see, they better they will get. Also, we are replacing our entire outfield and third baseman from last season. We will need guys to step up and fill those roles for us. I believe we should be solid. Our outfield has looked really good in practice lately and our infield has been solid. We have several new guys and depth at all positions that have played pretty well so far.”
Floyd further touched on his pitching staff and the depth thereof.
“As I said earlier, I believe our pitching depth is our strong point. We have a couple of guys who throw mid to upper 80’s+ and then a bunch of guys that throw upper 70’s to low 80’s, but are very consistent and hit their spots well. We are returning three starters from last season in Ethan Roberts, Dustin Cole, and Darin Cole, who will be our 1, 2, and 3 this year. Our #4 and #5 guys are still undecided at the moment. It’s a pretty tight race. However I’d have to say that Andrew Sparks and Ian Temple have a slight edge at the moment. Coach Southard has done a great job preparing our pitchers mentally and physically this off-season. We are still searching for a closer and right now it looks like it will be between two guys, Blake Lynn and Tyler Qualls. We have several guys competing for relief roles.”
Floyd will have four assistants on his staff this season, all four with which he is very familiar.
“I am extremely blessed to have such a great coaching staff around me. I have four assistant coaches that are passionate about the game and know the game as well as anyone. My assistants are Roggie Haston, Andy Southard, Wesley Martin and Bucky Floyd.”
Haston is a former Warrior, who just recently graduated from Tennessee Tech with a degree in elementary education. During his four years of playing baseball for WCHS, Floyd was an assistant on that staff. He played one season of college baseball at Roane State, where he started at shortstop. He, however, decided to transfer to Tech and concentrate on getting his degree. He has coached with Brian Everette and Coach Floyd.
“I’m so blessed to have Roggie back this year after taking last season off to finish his teaching degree,” noted Floyd. “Roggie knows the game so well and is always studying new drills and ideas to make the boys better. He is always at the field early and leaving late to help guys get extra work. He works with our infielders and our hitters. He is also my first base coach. He spends a tremendous amount of time teaching our boys what to look for at the plate and on the bases. He is a huge asset to our team.”
Andy Southard is back for his second year on Floyd’s staff as a pitching coach. Southard played four years at Warren County. He then played two years at Motlow State and transferred to Freed Hardeman and pitched there for two seasons. He finished his undergraduate degree at TTU and is now working at Woodland Park as a teacher’s assistant while working on his master’s in special education.
Floyd added, “Andy does a tremendous job with our pitchers. Last season we had one of the lowest ERA’s in recent history. He really works hard at teaching our guys mechanics and also the mental side of the game. Andy is also spending extra time daily at the end of practice helping guys on their mechanics and working on the field. Andy has been a true blessing to our team.”
Also back for the second season is Wesley Martin, who played four years at Van Buren County. He is currently a science teacher at WCHS.
“Wesley works primarily with our catchers and hitters,” noted Floyd. “He is also the head JV coach. Wesley has a great rapport with the kids. They trust him and come to him when they need something. He does a tremendous job with our catchers. He really put them through the ringer and they have greatly improved because of it. Wesley is such a tremendous asset to our team.”
The fourth member of the coaching staff is Bucky Floyd.
“My dad has been with me every step of the way of my head coaching experience. He started off with me at BonDeCroft in basketball and followed me to the middle school baseball team and now the high school. Bucky is such a huge asset. He works with our outfield primarily, but also is our bench coach. He is the guy that gets the boys fired up and excited about the game. He is the motivator on the team. He has a passion for the game and enjoys being out here. We are very fortunate to have him on our staff.”
Just like in all other sports at WCHS, the baseball district looks a little different than last season. Gone is Coffee County and new additions, Rhea County and Stone Memorial, have joined 6AAA. The reigning district champion, Cookeville, who graduated 16 seniors last season, but appears to just reload each season.
Floyd talked about the district this season, “Stone Memorial has a new head coach that has been successful everywhere he has been. He has inherited a large group of upper classmen so I expect them to be good. I think they could be the sleeper of our district this season. Rhea County lost several seniors, but has a great coach and I expect them to be very competitive. Cumberland County didn’t lose many from last season so I expect them to be much improved. Warren County is always a tough contest for us. They seem to always have our number in baseball. They have the majority of their starters returning, so I expect them to be really strong. Cookeville, of course, is always at the top of the district. They graduated 16 seniors but have a very talented group of seniors this year. Coach Chaffin always gets the most out of his kids and does a great job of coaching them. I would have to say that Cookeville is the favorite until someone knocks them off.”
Each team sets goals prior to the start of each new campaign. Floyd discussed what those are for his team on a per game basis and for the season.
“ Offensively, our goal is to score 5+ runs a game and have every at bat be a quality one. Defensively, we have set a goal of one error or less per game. Pitching, our goal is to give up three runs or less per game. If we can implement these goals, we will be successful. Our overall team goals are to finish top two in our district and advance to the regionals. We have also set a team goal of 20+ wins this season.”
Floyd concluded, “Pitching and defense win ball games, but only if you can score. I think the keys to victory for us this year will be maintaining solid pitching and defense and finding ways to put runs across the board. We pulled last year’s stats and when we scored 5 or more runs in a game we were 14-2. Our goal is to score 5+ runs a game so we don’t put all the pressure on our pitchers and defense.”
The Warriors will get things underway for the season on Monday, March 10th, when they host Upperman. They will also get into the thick of things the first weekend by playing in the Scenic City Classic in Chattanooga March 13-15. They will take on Station Camp, Baylor and two Georgia teams.