Midland Mustangs: Mustangs looking seeking another state title

By Hannah Burney Published March 10, 2013 at 5:00 a.m.
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After 27 years as head coach for the Midland Mustangs, Donnie Branscum hopes to bring home a third state title before retiring.

“Obviously, we would like to go back to state and win again. With this being my final year, I’d like to go get that third state championship. We’d like to win the Pioneer Classic in Batesville and win conference again. That’s not an easy task,” Branscum said.

Last season, the Mustangs lost in the second round of the regionals to Armorel, then the defending state champs, but came back to win the title from them in the championship game 5-3.

“We changed the way we pitched some of our innings, and we changed the way we handled ourselves at the plate. We got more aggressive, and that worked out well for us,” Branscum said of the championship game.

Branscum said he is keeping his eye on South Side Bee Branch this season.

“They’re the ones to beat. And I’m sure they are looking at us. It’ll be between us or them at conference,” he said.

With six players from the championship victory returning this season, Branscum said the team looks promising.

“The four seniors we lost were really good, and we’ve had to move some players around as a result of that. But we’ve got the MVP in the state back with us and two of our best pitchers back, so the cupboard is not bare,” Branscum said.

Branscum said that while there are several changes in the infield, he feels confident about the switches.

“Our whole infield is looking good. Cody Martin at first base is much improved from last year. We moved our center fielder Dalton Passmore into the infield, and he’s looking really good there,” Branscum said.

Hunter Biram, last season’s left fielder, will step in at center field, and freshman Austin Passmore will take over as catcher to fill some big shoes left by Logan Smith, an all-state catcher for three years.

“Austin’s got some huge shoes to fill, but he’s a very smart kid with a good arm. He’s going to do well, and he’ll only improve as he goes along,” Branscum said.

Best Hitter for Average: Senior Drew Fortson, pitcher and the Class 1A State Tournament Most Valuable Player, and senior Skylar Lataker, pitcher, hit .559 and .523 respectively last season.

Best Power Hitter: Branscum said Fortson and Lataker were also his power at the plate. “Those two give us that punch in the middle of the lineup,” he said.

Best Speed: Junior Dalton Passmore. “He’s one of the quickest ones I’ve ever had,” Branscum said.

Best Arm: Fortson and Lataker once again drew Branscum’s attention. “Lataker was 9-0 last season,” he said. The coach said he’s looking at Dalton Passmore to pitch some this season as well.

Best Fielder: Branscum said Biram is looking good at second base and center field, along with Hunter Goforth at third and Martin at first. “I’m feeling pretty good with that combination,” Branscum said.

Tri-Lakes Edition Page Designer Hannah Burney can be reached at 870-926-0882 or hburney@arkansasonline.com.

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