Most teams wouldn’t consider a season where they broke even in the win and loss categories to be a success, but after a long stretch of losing seasons, the Morrilton Devil Dogs are counting 2012 as a victory.
By finishing 13-13 last season, coach Todd Sparks said it’s the first time the team has had a non-losing season in about five years.
“Having a non-losing season was a big deal for the kids,” he said. “With a break or two we could have been right there [in the conference finals.]”
The Devil Dogs wrapped up the conference season in fifth place and their work is cut out for them this season. The team lost most of it’s starters and will be counting on a lot of juniors this season.
Best hitter for average: Sparks said that junior Toney Hawkins will be crucial to the team’s offense. Last season as a sophomore, Hawkins led the team on average as well.
“He’s probably one of the best hitters I’ve been around and I’ve been doing this for 18 years,” Sparks said.
Best hitter for power: Hawkins will also be making the big hits this season, Sparks said. As a freshman, Hawkins knocked seven home runs and last season hit four.
Best fielding: Shortstop Reese Heinrich will be holding the team down on defense, Sparks said. “He’s one of those kids that will do anything you ask,” he said. “He’s a good baseball player.”
Best speed: Zac Stovaugh is the fastest kid on the team, Sparks said. The freshman will be utilized in a number of different positions thoughout the season. “He’s a kid who’s probably a 4.4, 4.5 40-meter guy,” he said. “He’s just fast and he’s played a lot of baseball.”
Sparks said that Heinrich and Hawkins also have good speed.
Best arm: Junior John Cheek will be Morrilton’s No. 1 pitcher this season. Sparks said Cheek pitches in the mid to upper 80 mph range and has good control over several pitches. As a sophomore, Cheek went 5-4 as a starter.
Sparks said that youth will be an issue this season with very few returning players. However, the team does have a lot of depth and will have good players on the bench ready to augment the starting lineup.