For Malvern High School baseball coach Darryl Baker, last year was the first season in 28 years of coaching that his team did not make it to the state baseball tournament.
He said he’s hoping to make it back to the tournament this year.
“We got beat by Dumas in the regional tournament last year,” Baker said.
He said that last year, the team was predominately freshmen and sophomores, so he hopes his returning players will bring the experience needed for the team to make it back to the state tournament.
“We’re returning six starters and eight players that played quite a bit from last year’s team,” Baker said.
Although there are returning players, Baker said, the team will still be young, but four seniors will play for the Leopards this year.
“We’re still young this year, but we have a chance to be good,” Baker said.
Baker said the four seniors will add the leadership the team needs to be successful in getting more wins this year.
“Our team is more mature, so I do think that our team is going to be a lot better than we were last year,” Baker said.
The Leopards will be able to hit better this year, Baker said.
“We’re going to be more athletic out there on the field,” he said.
Baker said the team will have some new competition this year in its conference.
“We’ve added Central Arkansas Christian, Arkadelphia and Arkansas Baptist to our conference, and all three of those teams will enhance the way our baseball team plays,” Baker said.
Out of Baker’s 28 years as the Leopards coach, he’s seen the team take two state championship titles and hopes to see the team reach the top this year.
BEST HITTER FOR AVERAGE: Baker said the title of best hitter is going to be close between senior Austin Johnson, senior Austin Warford and junior Jake Golden.
BEST POWER HITTER: Baker said Brady Fite, a sophomore, will be the best power hitter for the Leopards this year. “He hit three home runs for us last year as a ninth-grader,” Baker said.
BEST SPEED: “It’s a tossup between [senior] Austin Johnson and [senior] Austin Warford,” Baker said.
BEST ARM: “I would say [junior] Ashton Holyfield. He’s going to have the best arm, followed closely by [sophomore] Colton Johnson,” Baker said.
BEST FIELDER: Baker said the Leopards’ best fielder is Devin Carpenter, who is a sophomore. “[Carpenter] started for us last year, and he’s playing shortstop this year,” Baker said.