By DAVID GREEN
Morenci’s first-year baseball coach Roger Pontious is taking a realistic approach to the season.
He’s not going to optimistically tell you the Bulldogs are going to go out and whip everybody in the league. No question about it—that will be his goal when TCC play gets going April 16 against Sand Creek, but it’s not likely to happen.
“We’re young and we’re going to stumble,” Pontious said. “Game experience is lacking and you can only get that by playing games.”
Only three players are back with extensive experience. All the gaps will be filled by three sophomores who put in a little time last year as freshmen and others who are new to the team.
“We had lots of talent last year so there wasn’t much opportunity for the younger players,” Pontious said. “We’ll be playing to win this year, but it’s going to be tough.”
He noted that several league teams have junior varsity squads and Whiteford is even starting a junior high team. Morenci hasn’t had the numbers for a JV team in several years, but increasing participation leading to a JV squad is one of Pontious’s goals.
Among the five seniors on the squad, only three were on the team last season. Anthony Barron returns to the mound—the only returning pitcher—and to play shortstop. Barron was named offensive player of the year last season.
Steven Pontious, last season’s defensive player of the year, is back at second base and he’ll put in some time on the mound. Devin Martinez is back for a final season, but he’s leaving first base to play behind the plate.
Kyle McClain took a break from baseball last season, but he’s back for his senior year. He’ll play in the outfield with newcomer Tim Apger.
Seven sophomores bolster the Bulldogs’ numbers, including three returners—shortstop and pitcher Jarrett Keller, center fielder Issac Jeffers and third baseman Cody Long.
Newcomers are outfielders Mike Snyder, Josh Moses and Ed Cousino, along with catcher/infielder Loren DelMonico.
Freshman Nick Wilson has earned a starting role at first base. Kenny Maxfield will try for an outfield spot and Brett Bovee will work at the shortstop position.
Dustin McCullough is serving as a pitching coach and Mark Lamley will also serve as an assistant.
Coach Pontious said his team has been hitting well in the batting cage, but he knows it’s an entirely different situation when an opponent’s pitcher is on the mound. He also sees good base-running speed with several players.
He expects good performances from his two returning pitchers, but there will be lot of growing with the others.
“We’re going to expect the younger kids to come through,” Pontious said. “If everybody plays together and believes in each other, they’re going to grow.”
• The Bulldogs are scheduled to open the season Thursday at Erie-Mason, followed by a double-header Monday at Addison. The league season opens at home April 16 against last year’s co-champions from Sand Creek.