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Southside Batesville: Southerners learn from last year’s errorsPublished March 10, 2013 at 5:00 a.m.
After a 12-10 season last year, coach Dale Dahl is working with his Southerners to firm up the defense to exceed what the team was able to accomplish last year.
“Our hitting has always been solid, and I think with our pitching and ability to hit the ball, if we pick up the defense, we’ll be doing good,” Dahl said.
Dahl said one of the things the team will rely on this year is the depth of its pitching staff. Despite graduating several pitchers last year, Dahl said the team has so many good arms that he’s still determining his No. 1 and No. 2 pitchers.
“We’ll have to see who starts to stand out during practice,” Dahl said.
The team has eight seniors this year, with the remaining players evenly split among the lower grades.
Defensively, Dahl and his assistant coach Tyler Pickett are focusing on getting players comfortable at second base and shortstop after the top players in those spots graduated.
The Southerners will again look to Stuttgart as one of the toughest teams in the conference, along with Lonoke. Dahl said Newport should also be a strong team this season.
“We were playing pretty good toward the end of the season, but we had to play a lot of doubleheaders because of rainouts,” Dahl said. With so many conference games coming as tiring doubleheaders, Dahl said, the team ran through its pitching staff too quickly.
“This year, we want to pace it out and be thinking about the tournament play, saving our guys for that,” Dahl said.
Best Hitter for Average: Look for senior Jacob Rawlings to stand out. A left-handed hitter, Rawlings hits to all portions of the field and has an excellent eye. “He definitely has skill and patience,” Dahl said. “He knows when to leave the ball alone.”
Best Power Hitter: Expect senior Jake Henderson to be one of the team’s best power hitters. Henderson has been playing since his freshman year, and Dahl describes him as “a big strong guy. … As long as he keeps his feet still and tracks the ball, he’s got a pretty good pop in his bat.”
Best Speed: Coach Dahl considers junior Myles Hopper in the outfield and junior Taylor Ellis on the infield to be the two fastest players on this year’s team.
Best Fielder: At third base, junior Trey Payne started most of last season and will be a natural in the spot this year. “He has good angles, attacks the ball and is pretty sure-handed,” Dahl said. Dahl was having a hard time finding someone to play third base when Payne volunteered, and he’s been doing well in the position ever since.
Best Arm: Keep an eye on sophomore pitcher and outfielder Cub Riley, who made a name for himself playing in several games as a freshman and always focusing on the fundamentals.
Zoned Editions Staff Writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at 501-399-3688 or firstname.lastname@example.org.