Weather — little else — holds Cougars back
SHEPHERDSTOWN — Before this week’s two scrimmage games, the Jefferson baseball team had only been outside for two practices. But doing inside drills, pitching from mounds and taking batting practice at the Ranson Civic Center has been enough to move the Cougars in the right direction when their regular season begins.
Since the 1973 season, when the school fielded its first baseball team, John Lowery Sr. has been the coach.
And he’s got a renewed enthusiasm about this 2019 team that has more pitchers of a known quality than usual.
James Walsh and Taylor Tennant are at the top of Lowery’s list of possible starters. Both won games at a steady rate last season when the Cougars won 20-plus games again. Left-hander Zach Rose and Jordan Trunnell are two more pitchers who should fare well against area competition.
Starting outfielder Cory Daly can also win games on the mound. That’s 5 pitchers with experience who have all gotten batters out with their control and by throwing strikes.
Other pitchers are freshman Sam Roberts — who will start against Blue Ridge (Pa.) — Cullen Horowicz, Dylan McCartney (the third-year starting catcher who has improved his velocity), Luke Payne, Sam Wabnitz, Jordan Biggs and Dalton Reed.
Jefferson’s probable starting outfield when the weather allows the first game to actually be played will likely be Hayden Stang, Mason Lantz and Daly.
Rose is likely at first base with Chase Anderson at second base, Tennant at shortstop if Walsh pitches and Cullen Horowicz at third base.
McCartney is backed by Coleson Titus as the top two catchers. Zac Pownell has made strides since last season.
When the season reaches the second week, outfielder Stevie Lee should be ready to play.
Any number of players whose primary position is pitching could be used as a designated hitter, especially in games where runs might come at a premium.
Lowery likes the improvement shown from the 2018 season in Regan Allinger and Isiah Morris.
Outfielders Michael Jeffries, Willtab Ricketts and Malakai Meadows as well as shortstop Kamian Gonzalez could all be given their chances as a designated hitter. Infielder Michael Colina and outfielder Mason LaFollette appear to be capable fielders and could supplant a starter.
The competition in Jefferson’s Class AAA Section comes from Washington and Hampshire. The foursome of Berkeley County teams — Martinsburg, Hedgesville, Musselman and Spring Mills — comprise the rest of the Region’s teams. One of those 7 teams will qualify for the state tournament, which Jefferson last visited in 2016 when it captured the school’s 12th state championship.
This Lowery version will not have much home run power, but should steal bases, have a workable on-base percentage and mow opposition lineups down with their strike-throwing pitching.
Winning 20 games? If it happens again, it would be the 43rd year in a row a Cougar team has achieved that feat!