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By Jimmie Earls
Sun Sports Writer
As spring approaches, the temperatures are warming up, and so are the members of the Washington County High School baseball team. But while the mercury is still in the low 30s, that’s not going to be any excuse for coach Derek Schuler’s team not to be prepared.
The team recently started workouts and one place seeing a lot of fly balls and grounders is the gym at Washington County Middle School. The ductwork has been taking a beating as the baseball Commanders take batting practice and run through drills inside.
The Commanders finished 10-19 last year, reaching the final round of the 19th District Tournament where they lost 7-3 to Bardstown. Schuler knows his team has the talent to go all the way.
“We’ll be alright depending on pitching,” said Schuler, who is entering his second year as the team’s head coach. “This year we have two seniors, 10 juniors, six sophomores and nine freshmen. We have guys that don’t have the experience at the varsity level, but I think they’ll be fine.”
Schuler said if pitchers Tyler Smith, Joseph Hamilton, Hunter Goatley, Dylan Cheatham and Fergus McCain are solid, the team will do well. It’s an all right-handed staff. Smith and Hamilton, along with seniors Joe Joe Simms and Lee Mudd, need to put in quality innings on the mound.
The Commanders will rely on speed on the bases to put runs on the board.
“We’re going to have to run, run, run,” added Schuler. “We don’t have any power. We’re going to have to put the ball in play and run, which is fine, it’s fun to watch.”
Schuler said there are little things that could be improved upon that make the difference in the game.
“We should win district,” Schuler said. “I’ll be upset if we don’t. We finished 10-19 last season. Last year we had nine games we lost by three runs or less. You fix those mistakes and instead of 10-19, we’re 19-10.”
Some improvements have been made to Tom Bystrek Field since last season, the key feature being a new infield. There’s still some work to do but Mother Nature has not been cooperating so far. The recent ice storm tore down the backstop and the field is still wet, meaning that the base surfaces are not finished, the mound isn’t ready and home plate is not installed.
Two seniors highlight this year’s roster. Joe Joe Simms should do well this year after being named to the East-West All-Star team last year, while hitting .429 for the Commanders. Lee Mudd should also be a big contributor. Schuler says Mudd can do a lot physically, is fast and smart on the bases. He’s a solid second baseman who might play a little at third.
The Commanders will open the season on the road March 23 at North Hardin before their home opener March 24 against Fort Knox.