According to Raider head coach Ted Carson, only about five members of the team have any extensive previous varsity experience.
One of the team’s leaders and veterans, Jesse Jones, will moving to first base in addition to probably serving as a short-inning reliever in certain situations.
“A lot of our starting pitching will be sophomores this season. We are going to be looking for guys like Jake Wyrick, Taylor Thompson and Colin Tippit to step up this season,” stated Carson.
The team will also feature a few new faces behind the plate, with Nick Miller, Koltyn Plumb and Carson Griffin taking turns behind the dish.
Carson expects Jones to lead the Raider bats, but he stated the importance of younger team members stepping up to put balls in play.
“With the new bats (regulating specifications) coming in this year it’s going to change the look of the game. I’m sure we will be seeing some more small-ball, and we are going to be doing some of that ourselves,” Carson explained.
He went on to say that the team does have some speed on the base paths with Tyler Shugart, Robert Parr, Reed Allison, Conor Hale and Michael Henderson all being quick base runners.
But, the fact is the team’s age and experience might catch them early as they look to see what pieces fit this season’s puzzle.
“We can put a young group or a younger group in there. We are going to have to find the right mixture, and that might take a while,” Carson said.
That need for finding the winning combination might cause the team to take some lumps early, but Carson is confident that with the youth and talent on the team they will build into a quality program.
“This district has always been tough, and the last several years there hasn’t been much difference between first and seventh place,” he concluded.
Cleveland kicks off its regular season at the Hixson Wildcat Classic starting March 15 and running until the 17th before rushing off into district play against the Rhea County Golden Eagles at Raider Field on March 19 with a start time of 7 p.m.