The Clinton Yellow Jackets had an “above average” baseball season last year in the 2-4A conference, and coach Robert Prince expects nothing less in 2013. Starting his 12th year coaching at Clinton, Prince is confident that his team will hold its own on the field and the mound.
“We are going to be competitive this season. We lost a four-year starter at shortstop who was also a pitcher, a four-year-starter third baseman and pitcher as well, but overall, I’ve got some very good young kids,” Prince said. “A lot of them played last year, and I feel like we can establish ourselves on the mound with pitchers that can throw strikes.”
Last year, Clinton finished 8-4 in conference play, won the district tournament and was ultimately defeated in the first round of the state competition.
Prince said his team will enter the season “defensively sound,” but with unproven pitching skills.
“Some of my younger [pitchers] are just untested at this point,” he said. “I’m going to be using a lot of freshman and sophomore pitchers, and the pitching is a little unproven, but I feel like they are going to be fine.”
Although weather conditions have kept team members indoors for much of their practice time, Prince said they have primarily focused on improving the hitters’ timing.
“It is always just a matter of getting the batters’ timing down against the pitching because we are really limited at this point, as far as seeing live pitching,” he added.
Best hitter for average: Prince said his best hitters are expected to be senior Nic Tester, a four-year starter, catcher and left-handed batter with a .315 batting average; and Fielder Dufrene, a sophomore shortstop with a .312 batting average. “They’re both good baseball players and both athletic,” he said. “They’re smart, and they know the game.”
Best power hitter: Sophomore Harrison Lester, a third baseman and pitcher, will be an asset to the team this year, along with senior first baseman Dalton Jackson. “In the cage and with all the work [Jackson] has put in, I feel like he is going to have a good year at the plate,” Prince added.
Best Speed: Prince named juniors Brandon Trujillo and Drew Farmer as two players who can help with the team’s speed this year. “Neither one of those guys got a lot of varsity time last year, but I am hoping that both of them can step up and help us in the outfield this year,” Prince said. Also mentioned were Dufrene, Lester and sophomore Daniel Beavers.
Best fielder: Nic Tester, an “above average” catcher, will prove to be the team’s best fielder. “He’s a returning all-conference, all-state player,” Prince said. “He is going to block the balls. He throws runners out; he handles the pitching staff well; he provides a lot of leadership on the field.” Also, Prince wants to bring attention to sophomore outfielder Colson Tester, who will serve as an important utility player for the team. “He’s a great kid. He works hard, and he does anything I ask him to do,” Prince said. “We’re working him at outfield drills, some at first, and he catches. I’m just giving him work at different positions and finding a way to get him on the field.”
Best arm: Prince said Nic Tester will have the strongest arm on the field this season, but on the mound, sophomore Ben Smith will have the chance to shine. Nic Tester and Dufrene will also be in the rotation, along with junior Cody Lowder.
Overall, Prince said, he expects to build upon last season’s accomplishments and bring a competitive team to the field that will be a challenge to its opponents. “We’re just looking to build on last year, and we’d like to advance to the regionals again and then on to state,” Prince said. “We’d like to win some games at state tournament this year and hang around a lot longer. We’ve got a good group of young men that work hard.”