PREP BASEBALL PREVIEW: North changes approach to fit its strengths (3/18)

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By Chuck Jones

The North Hardin Trojans are undergoing a transformation this season. With a number of offensive stars lost to graduation, they won’t rely so much on their offense this year, but their pitching and defense.

Gone are Brady Patterson, Andrew Boyles and Antonio Simmons, the heart of their order last season. Boyles led the area in hitting, triples and home runs last season, while Patterson was tops in doubles.

North Hardin coach Ace Adcock realizes this team won’t have the same offensive firepower. Last season, the Trojans averaged 6.3 runs per game.

“Offensively, I see us as a scrappy team,” Adcock said. “We do not have the same power. We’re not going to be able to play for the big hit like we did last year. We’re going to have to get on base and manufacture runs. We’re going to have to be more team-oriented and do things for the good of the team to help us score runs. We want to be aggressive, but disciplined.”

Although the Trojans won’t be the same offensively, they’ll be better in terms of pitching. The Trojans return a wealth of pitching, starting with senior Aaron Jones, junior Sy Ogden and sophomores Javier Echevarria and Lance Baker.

“I feel like our rotation of three or four guys give us a chance to win every game,” Adcock said. “Javy throws it well. Lance had the best ERA last year and he got a lot of experience as a freshman. Aaron brings a lot of experience, throwing in a lot of big games. Sy is a crafty left-hander. If he has the same type of success as last year, he’s going to help us a lot.”

Sophomore Markus Bell saw limited action last season, but Adcock said Bell could be used more on the mound this year. Seniors Kawika Glover, Aaron Vance, Eli Carman and Brian Carroll, sophomore Thomas Kimble and freshman Aaron Tomita all will see time on the mound. Carman is coming back from an injury and sophomore Trevor Vandermolen has been slowed during the preseason with an arm injury.

“I think the strength of this club with be our pitching depth,” Adcock said. “This is as strong of a staff as we’ve had since I’ve been here. I feel like defensively we should be pretty strong.”

The infield has been completely retooled. Echevarria shifts from third to first base, freshman Shae Krupinski takes over at second, sophomore Blake Yates steps in at shortstop and senior Jordan Sanchez moves from second to third. Ogden or Vandermolen will play first when Echevarria pitches, while Bell could reprise his role at shortstop.

“We do have experience with Javy, Jordan and even Markus,” Adcock said. “The key to varsity baseball is making the routine plays and I think we have the infield to do that. They’ve played a full season and they know how to handle certain things.”

Senior Jamaal Wilson moves from left to center and is the only certainty in the outfield with the corner spots up in the air. Jones, Ogden, Baker, Bell, Carroll, sophomore Dorsey Cole and freshman A.J. Moralles all are battling for playing time.

“They are all pretty even defensively,” Adcock said. “It’s going to come down to who has a hot bat. We’re looking for someone to step up and be productive.”

Junior Graham Mathews is another player on the move. After starting in the infield last year, Mathews takes over behind the plate. Cole and Glover could see time at catcher as well.

“I feel a lot better than we did last summer with Graham taking over at catcher,” Adcock said. “We were concerned with that, but he has done a wonderful job. I expect him to have a great year.”

The Trojans haven’t advanced to the 5th Region Tournament since winning it in 2006. After a 20-16 season last year, Adcock is hoping they take another step forward this season.

“We haven’t proven to be better than a four seed the last couple of years,” Adcock said. “We could finish anywhere from two to four depending on how we play. We need to continue to get better and not settle for being the four seed.”

Chuck Jonescan be reached at (270) 505-1759 or cjones@thenewsenterprise.com.