After setting a school record for most wins in a season, posting an 18-8 record and going 9-3 in the West Central Conference last season, South Putnam High School baseball coach Matt Griswold is looking forward to another winning season.
The Eagles are returning 13 players from last year's squad, which includes five seniors in Josh Harper, Matt Hicks, Greg Chestnut, Marcus McKinney and Chris Nichols.
"I have a lot of trust in the seniors and I've told everybody how lucky we are to have them," Griswold said. "I can just tell everybody to do what the seniors are doing."
Among the returning players are three juniors in Cory McCallie, Derek Cash and Adam Nees, so the Eagles have the experience need to be successful this year.
Three of the seniors are also returning pitchers from last year's squad, in Hicks, Chestnut and McKinney. Chestnut led the Eagles 'pitching last year with a earned run average of 1.62 while Hicks posted a 2.14 ERAin 55.2 innings, giving up only 17 earned runs and struck out 99 batter's. McKinney ended the season with a 3.28 ERA.
"They are going to be the anchors for the pitching staff this year and will pitch most of our conference innings for us," Griswold said of the three seniors.
The three senior pitchers will be the anchors for the pitching, but Griswold said that he is looking for all five seniors to contribute to the team this year.
McKinney and Nichols will be putting their contribution in at the plate this year for Eagles. Last season McKinney posted the second best batting average with .437, just under Kyle Roberts, who had a .451 while Nichols hit .250. Another player's bat that will be appreciated this season is Nees'. He batted .265 in 2005 and had 13 runs batted in. Hicks and Chestnut will also contribute at the plate this year as well. Hicks ended the season with a batting average of .425 and led the team in homeruns with 11 and had 27 RBI. Chestnut hit .319 in 2005 and posted 13 RBI.
Griswold knows he has several good hitters back this year, but he also knows that he will need a few more to step up to make this season successful.
"The ones that usually step up for us are our 5-9 guys and if they can produce we'll be OK, but it's the beginning of the season and we won't know until we get a few games under our belts," Griswold said.
With a lot of the players back from last year's squad, Griswold said that the Eagles look forward to defending the Putnam County baseball title this year from 2004, since they didn't get to play it last year because of the rain.
South Putnam's goals are the same as the other three county teams, win the county tournament, conference and sectional titles this year.
Griswold knows who his pitchers will be this year, but still hasn't figure out who is all playing where yet on the field.
"Right now we have 13-to-14 players competing for nine positions on the field and we will know more after next week after we play our first couple of games," he said.
With the 2006 season just around the corner, Griswold is excited to watch his team in action this year.
"We have the experience back on the mound this year and that's exciting to see," Griswold said. "I'm looking forward to this year and being around these players. They are a fun bunch of players to be around.
"We have conference veterans back and we have some sophomores that should be fun to watch," he said.
The Eagles open their season with an in county WCC match up when they host Cloverdale at 4:30 p.m.