2020 BASEBALL PREVIEW: Hawks look to defend district title with new coach

The Hawks’ Bryson Arnette fields a ground ball during the 2019 5th Region Tournament. Arnette is the only senior on the LaRue County roster this season.

A new chapter begins this season for LaRue County baseball. The Hawks head into the 2020 season with a new coach at the helm in Kellen Lobb.

Lobb takes over for Chase Greenwell, who stepped in last year right before the season and stepped down right after the season. He now is the coach at Eliza­beth­town.

After a solid 2019 for the Hawks, Lobb hopes to pick up where the team left off this year.

“We are hoping to be competitive in every game we play in, making the basic fundamental plays we are supposed to make,” Lobb said. “I think the key this season will be pitching. The region is wide open and anything can happen.”

Last season, LaRue County went 22-13 and 8-0 in the 18th District. This dominance concluded with a 6-2 win over Green County on May 22, 2019 to claim the 18th District Tournament championship.

The Hawks’ season ended five days later in the 5th Region Tournament. Opening region play on May 27 against Bethlehem, LaRue County fell to the Eagles 10-0 to bring their season to a close.

Despite the disappointing finish last year, Lobb felt confident the district title could be defended and the region title was attainable.

“Our number one goal this season is to win the district and region championships,” Lobb said. “We must make basic fundamental plays defensively and put the ball in play for us to be successful. If we do those things, the sky’s the limit for this team.”

Defense is an area Lobb feels confident the Hawks can excel, especially with players such as Bryson Arnette at third base and Daniel Snodgrass at shortstop.

Snodgrass heads into his junior season off an injury that derailed much of his sophomore season. Lobb said he expects Snodgrass to bounce back for a big year.

“He is one of the best shortstops in this region,” Lobb said of Snodgrass.

Arnette also will be a crucial part of LaRue County’s pitching, another area of the game where Lobb expects LaRue County to be strong.

Last season, Arnette went 8-5 on the mound and struck out a school-record 114 hitters. This helped him finish the season with a 2.46 ERA. Arnette also is a two-time East/West All Star.

In addition to Arnette, there is plenty of pitching talent for the Hawks to choose from.

“We have 16 pitchers listed on our roster,” Lobb said. “They have all been working hard this offseason to get better.”

Arnette, a three-year starter and the team’s leader according to Lobb, is the also the team’s only senior. With a younger overall core of players comes a team that has experienced and less tested players.

“I feel like we are a combination of both, depending on who is on the mound,” Lobb said. “We have one senior, seven juniors, four sophomores and 11 freshmen. They are a talented group that has worked hard in the offseason.”

Additional position players with defensive talent include junior catcher Brooks Brackett and junior first baseman Derek Heath.

The team also has a pair of newcomers in juniors Evan Morris and Connor Baker. Lobb said Morris and Baker have had solid offseasons and could be strong two-way players for the Hawks.

“Both have been working hard in the offseason and at the plate,” Lobb said. “We want to be more aggressive at the plate this year. We also want to be more aggressive on the base paths.”

Additional hitting powers will be a welcome addition for the Hawks, who finished with a .282 batting average last season.

Lobb said improved play at the plate will be necessary to compliment the Hawks’ fielding and pitching talent.

“That has to improve in order for us to be successful,” he said.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Previews were written before the shutdown of schools and the postponement of the spring season.

Matt Tyson can be reached at 270-505-1754 or mtyson@thenewsenterprise.com.

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