CLOVERDALE -- In it final game last season, Cloverdale experienced both highs and lows of competition and showed that the Clovers would be a force to be reckoned with in 2011.
The Clovers welcome back four seniors Frankie Skiles, Josh Burdette, Shawn Shipp and Jordan Hayden and it will be those four who will anchor the Cloverdale squad. Skiles and Shipp will hold down the infield at shortstop and second base, respectively. Head coach Bryan Archer will look to Hayden to be utility player, spending time in both the outfield and infield as well as pitching.
Cloverdale will have a number of players spending time on the mound this season and from what he's seen so far, it could definitely be one of the team's strengths. Burdette and Jordan Brinkman will spend some time, as starters and Archer will look to his third baseman, Brian Dale, to come in as a closer.
"Pitching wise, Josh hasn't had a lot of time to throw yet, but he's thrown a couple bullpens and he looks pretty good," Archer said. "His speed has never been an issue; it's just working on his location, which he's starting to improve on that. That's a big plus for us.
"Jordan Brinkman is going to do a lot of pitching," he continued. "Last year we kind of eased him into it, he started centerfield, but he's been looking really good since practice has started. I have Brian Dale, he's our third basemen and he's going to possibly be like a closing role for us.
"Last year that was something we kind of missed. We really didn't have a guy who could come in and close a game out. We're going to look to Brian to step into that role," he added.
Sophomores Justin Wilson and Will Anderson will also get a chance to toss some varsity games as well. The best part of Archer's pitching rotation is the fact that each pitcher has something different to offer.
"We have some good arms and each pitcher has two or three quality pitches they've really been working on," Archer said. "The thing I'm stressing to them this year is challenge their hitters and throw strikes. We don't have to be perfect up there, we just have to throw strikes, throw good pitches and be smart when we're up there."
Archer said that for a team competing in county to set its self apart, it's going to come down to defense.
"The county, we're looking at four really good teams," Archer confessed. "It's going to be a fun spring. I think for a team in this county to rise above it just going to have to be a team that really plays tough defense, eliminates errors and has good pitching.
"If you look at the rosters, every team has hitters returning," Archer continued. "Guys might hit the ball, but I think it's going to come down to whose pitching is on and whose defense can eliminate error and make routine plays and just give their pitchers some backup."
As with most teams, the upperclassmen leadership will be crucial for the Clovers to have a successful season. And according to Archer, it's something his juniors and seniors are excelling at.
"I think we have a lot of veteran guys out there, but we're also going to have some guys, like I talked about, the two sophomore pitchers," Archer said. "There's going to be some guys like Cody Carter who's a sophomore who's going to get some playing time at the varsity level.
"It's going to be our leadership from our juniors and seniors helping out those guys that are coming in. There might be tough situations in games and that leadership is going to have to come to them and give our younger guys the confidence that they'll need for us to succeed.
"To be honest with you, right now my juniors and seniors have taken the leadership responsibility very seriously and they're doing a great job of it," Archer said.
The mental edge is something Archer wants to see his team utilize as the season progresses. He said he knows that all the hard work they've put in will bring about the success.
"The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender," Archer said. "But I think through the course of the season, when we get in those tough games, those guys have put in all the time and work, it's going to be hard for them to give up easily -- or even think about giving up.
"That's something I'm looking for throughout the season. For the leadership, for all that hard work to pay off for those guys and us," he said.
Cloverdale open its season at Southmont Tuesday at 5 p.m.