After a 10-13 regular season and making it only one game deep into the 4A playoffs last year, coach Michael Maddox said he is depending on five seniors and a talented group of juniors to bring the Bauxite Miners to their former glory.
“We’ve been young, but we have more experience now,” he said. “We have some sophomores who played some in their last year and will be valuable spot players this season.”
He said 36 players are on the roster, and out of that, only four — two seniors and two juniors — are still involved in basketball.
“It is good they can play,” Maddox said. “However, they have not had a solid offseason getting faster and stronger. And one of those players is one of the team’s most effective pitchers.
Best Hitter for Average: “Tyler Willis, a senior catcher, is the best hitter on the team hands down,” Maddox said. Willis had been a starter in his freshman year when he caught all the games through the state champion playoffs three years ago when the Miners won the state championship. He hit .394 last year, and Maddox predicts Willis will hit close to .400 again this season. “He is a humble kid who is way too hard on himself,” the coach said. “He is always trying to get better.”
Best Power Hitter: Coach Maddox named Willis as the team’s best power hitter as well as best for average. However, because of the new bats being used in Arkansas high school baseball, the coach said the home run has really stopped being a major factor in the games. “Power is down considerably; most players just can’t hit them,” he said. “But the new bats will let you know who your good hitters are.” He did say balls can still get out of the park during the season, but “it will need to have the right speed and the right swing before it can happen.”
Best Speed: Miner fans can expect “more speed” this season from the team, Maddox said. Justin Warren, Esteban Padilla and Tyler Kemp give the team a fast outfield. As for third baseman Blake Yates, coach Maddox said he can “spot on fly.”
Best Fielder: Senior infielder/pitcher Shaw Beesley is given that title by coach Maddox. Beesley played shortstop last year, but he will at least begin the year at second base, following the shoulder injury of Easton Alarcon.
Best Arm: Beesley will go to the center of the infield to be the opening-day starter for the Miners, the coach said. “After that, we will just piece it together,” Maddox said. “But we have a lot of arms.” Once basketball season is over, the coach expects Ben Madison to take a spot at or near the top of the rotation. Ethan Hendrik has a quick fastball and a changeup as an effective second pitcher, while Jay Davies is a big thrower with a different style and lots of movement to keep the opposing batters off balance.
“He had success at the junior-varsity level, and we expect good things,” Maddox said.
With the addition of Central Arkansas Christian, Arkadelphia and Arkansas Baptist High School, coach Maddox said, all of the Miners’ conference games will be important games. “Those teams are dandies, always talented and well coached, and then when you add Malvern, then playing through the conference is brutal,” he said. “All the games will mean something because with this much talent, no one team will dominate.” Yet, he said, his players still have their eyes on getting better and taking the prize at the end of the season.