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Coach Greg Gumm enters his second season over the John Hardin program, but in some ways, it feels like he’s starting all over.
The Bulldogs are coming off a successful 21-16 season, but Gumm has several holes to fill after graduating starters Sam Brashear, Brandon Arel, Hunter Martin, Michael Gann and Terrick Jaquess.
“We are inexperienced, especially on the mound,” Gumm said. “We’ve got several newcomers, but they’ve not played a lot of baseball. We’re just going to have to keep improving and try to get better than the day before.”
The good news for Gumm is he does have some talented players to build around.
It starts with Gumm’s son, Dale, who will split time between shortstop and the mound. Dale is the team’s top returning pitcher after winning 10 games and striking out 75 last season. He also is the team’s top returning hitter.
Battery mate Zach Miller, a senior, returns behind the plate, while freshman Landon Sisk is back for his second season at second base.
“We have the same catcher, second baseman and shortstop,” Gumm said. “We should be strong up the middle. Zach’s put in a lot of time. If there’s one place you’d like to have experience coming back, it’s up the middle.”
First base is a competition between junior Brian Panckey and sophomore Dajour Strong, two newcomers to the program. Sophomore Dakoda Rothermel shifts from first base to third. Eighth-grader Bailey Hall will see time at second and shortstop, while Panckey could see action at third or catcher.
“Our middle infield should be our strong suit,” Gumm said. “You want to have experience in the middle. Rothermel has looked good at third. He’s one of our top hitters from last year. He’s got a good glove and he’s doing a good job at third.”
Junior Lavonte Wilson moves from left field to center. He will be flanked by senior Montaque Pittman in left and junior Patrick Anderson in right. Anderson started for the football and basketball teams, but this is his first time playing baseball. Sophomore Shawn Lile also could see time in the outfield.
“We should have a lot of speed,” Gumm said. “We should be able to cover a lot of ground. They just need to get games under their belt. They don’t know some of the little things, but that comes with playing. They are good kids and they are trying to learn and get better.”
Outside of Dale Gumm, the rest of the pitching staff will be inexperienced. The Bulldogs have a good mix of lefties — Strong and freshman Will Muir — and righties — Wilson, Panckey, Sisk and freshman Jason Baumgardner.
“Dale has worked hard and his velocity is up,” Gumm said. “It’s not an ideal situation with him playing shortstop and pitching. We’re going to have to try to limit his innings to keep him fresh for the end of the year. He can’t pitch every game.
“I think we have guys that can come in and throw strikes,” he added. “They just need to come in and locate their pitches. They just need to throw strikes and we need to play defense behind them. We should be fairly sound defensively.”
Offensively is where Gumm has some concerns. Although Dale, Rothermel, Sisk and Miller have experience, the rest of the lineup is green. Despite the inexperience, Gumm is optimistic the Bulldogs can develop into a solid offense.
“We have a pretty good mix,” Gumm said. “We have decent speed and we have some guys that can hit the ball in the gaps. We’ve worked awfully hard, now we just have to take it to the game. Experience helps a whole lot. We just need to see how kids respond in live situations.”
Chuck Jonescan be reached at (270) 505-1759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.