It’s been a productive offseason for North Hardin baseball. Head coach Ace Adcock hopes that pays off in a big way for his team this spring.
The Trojans return six starters from last year’s team that came just shy of a region championship, with ripe talent coming in to fill the gap left behind. With this in mind, Adock believes the Trojans can pick up right where they left off.
“The goals for this team will be the same as every year. We want to win a district and region championship. It is two difficult goals because we play in such a strong district and there are some good teams in our region,” Adock said. “However, I think both of these goals can be accomplished if we can come together and work toward getting better every day. The key is if we can be consistent in improving every day to be able to accomplish those goals.”
Last season, the Trojans finished with a 32-6 record.
This included a 10-0 record in district play, culminating in a 17th District championship after defeating Central Hardin 8-5 in the district tournament.
Against region opponents, the Trojans and 23-5 across their schedule. After blanking Green County 10-0 in the 5th Region Tournament semifinals on May 28, 2019, North Hardin lost to Taylor County 4-2 the next night in the championship game.
Having experienced returners and talented depth is a good place to start to turn things around. Adcock also said this doesn’t mean the Trojans plan to take a deeper postseason run last year for granted. In order to run it back, they plan to adapt to what this year’s team can do best.
“With every season comes a different team. This means as a coach, you have to adjust to each team’s strengths to optimize their potential. This team will have a lot of team speed, so we will want to find ways to allow that strength to produce runs, while allowing some of our bats to drive in runs,” Adcock said. “We lost very good players last year and those players will be difficult to replace, however, I like those that are going to be contributing to help our team win games.”
Among the returning starters are seniors Parker Estes and Cameron Smith. Last season, Estes and Smith posted batting averages of .358 and .333, respectively. Smith brought in 43 runs, with 35 for Estes. Both players recorded these numbers through all 38 games, with 111 at bats for Smith and 109 for Estes.
On the mound, Estes also had 11 starts with a 2.35 ERA and 56 strikeouts. Estes compiled these stats across 50.2 innings pitched.
Other players with high expectations include fellow seniors Tyer Sipes and Shaheem Daily, who was injured for the second half of the 2019 season.
“I think if he stays healthy he can have a good year for us,” Adock said of Daily.
Juniors Zac Henderson and Seth Yates were also identified as players to watch for strong seasons. Last season, Yates pitched in 11 games and started on the bump for eight.Through 53.2 innings pitched, Yates struck out 44 hitters and finished the season with a 2.09 ERA.
Fellow junior and pitcher Danny Coyner also has high expectations. Last year Coyner earned 12 strikeouts through 12 innings pitched.
“Danny Coyner will need to have a strong year on the mound for us and I really believe he can,” Adcock said.
Among the team’s sophomores, Adock said Manie Wimberly could play an important role at the plate this season.
“Manie Wimberly is starting to get healthy,” Adcock said. “I feel he will be solid in the middle of the lineup.”
With a schedule he described as one of the toughest he’s had as a coach, Adcock said the Trojans’ experience will help them navigate through the season.
On the field, North Hardin’s skilled rotation and position players will play an important role in determining games.
“I like our four starting arms on the mound and feel we have a team that will play good defense and keep us in games. I also feel we will be strong up the middle. We return our starting catcher, shortstop and second baseman and all three are good players that will anchor our infield,” Adcock said. “With that said, we are going to have to be able to score runs to win games. We will need players that are willing to do whatever it takes to get on base to give ourselves opportunities to score.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Previews were written before the shutdown of schools and the postponement of the spring season.