Young Cougars chase another 20-win season
Who does Jefferson have to chase another 20-win baseball season?
Mostly youngsters with enough enthusiasm and work ethics to bring an overall competition and hustle to even the team’s indoor practices. The miserable winter has made postponing two early-season dates (at Martinsburg and against Moorefield) necessary since the team had only 13 practice dates and the WVSSAC edicts call for a mandatory 14 practices be held before any games can be played.
But the John Lowery-coached Cougars were able to get in their lengthy scheduled scrimmages against Potomac Falls and Chambersburg.
Even though there will be only two seniors on this year’s roster, several familiar names return from the team that finished with a 22-13 record and a Sectional championship in 2013.
Andrew King was a second-team All-State player and is back at second base. He will be one of the Cougars’ key pitchers as well. Outfielders Will Oliver and Chase Crockett were both starters when the Cougars saw Washington in the Sectional tournament and then Hedgesville in the one-game Regional.
Miguel Acosta moves from shortstop to third base and sophomore pitchers Bradley Davis and Andy Disque (both left-handers) were openly trusted toward the close of last season.
Jefferson has a much-envied streak of seasons where it has won at least 20 games for 37 straight years. Its last state championship was just three years ago and it was the school’s 10th title overall.
This year’s seniors are catcher Garrett Everton and pitcher Will Viands. Everton has been a utility player in past seasons, but did receive useful at-bats a year ago.
Lowery was impressed by three freshmen pitchers in the scrimmage games against Potomac Falls and Chambersburg.
“I thought Austin Bulman, left-hander Austin Cross and Dylan Carroll all threw well in those games. All of them threw strikes and showed good control, and for freshmen had good velocity on their fastballs,” said the only baseball coach the school has ever had, beginning in 1973.
Davis will likely open the delayed season at first base, a position that Disque also plays.
Paul Witt is the shortstop, completing an infield of Davis, King, Witt and Acosta.
Joining Oliver and Crockett in the outfield is Brody Price.
Since this team is manned by so many underclassmen whose skills and abilities are still developing, there are sure to be a series of position changes and personnel moves as the season progresses.
Infielders whose multiple-position usefulness gives them a chance to start are Michael Tennant, Grant Reed and Desmond Grimes. Charles Barnholt and Marcus Smith are outfielders who have done some pitching on the jayvee team. Joe Mills opens the season as the team’s only other catcher.
Jordan Beans is a prime candidate for some designated hitter duty as well as some innings as a pitcher.
This team appears to have more speed than power, and there won’t be many home runs. Stealing bases and intelligent baserunning could become a hallmark with these players, who have shown an inclination to want to learn baseball’s inside tricks.
There are three teams in the Sectional grouping this season — Jefferson, Washington and Musselman.
The Cougars take their annual trip to Myrtle Beach where they have games against South Lakes (Va.), St. James and Canfield (Ohio) in their four-school group. There could be as many as five games on the trip to the beach.
As is the case in most seasons, if the Cougars have pitchers throwing strikes and hitters refusing to strike out, the year will bring at least another 20 wins.
Davis, Disque, Viands, Cross, Bulman, Carroll and King will all receive pitching starts by the time late-April finds the schedule. How they fare will probably take the Cougars on their 2014 path.