Bruins face diamond challenge

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By Robert Howey

Over the past two springs, the Lancaster High School baseball team has won 33 games, including 18 victories last season.

With the loss of 11 solid seniors, the Bruins will face a challenge in seeking to continue their diamond success.

"A year ago at this time, we had our share of veterans," said LHS coach Steve Williams, who is 184-176 since becoming the Bruins' baseball coach in 1993. "This year, we're going to look to our seniors to give us solid leadership."

The Bruins, who earned a No. 5 state ranking last spring, have only one true starter back - senior outfielder-pitcher Nick Ferguson.

Ferguson has already signed to play baseball at Spartanburg Methodist College.

"Nick has developed into a good leader for us and we will look to him this season," Williams said.

Ferguson, when not in the outfield, will be on the mound.

"Nick works hard and serves as a prime example for our younger players," Williams said.

Ferguson hit .348 with four home runs and 21 runs batted in last spring.

Williams will also look to seniors Ross Maiden, Jordan Workman, Jimmie Jordan and Evan Byrd all returnees. Maiden, Workman and Byrd will pitch.

Byrd hit .500 in a limited role, while Maiden batted .333.

"Those players will be in stepped-up roles this season as we look to them to help lead us," Williams said. "They will be key players in providing good, strong leadership."

Junior Will Gaston and sophomore Josh Warfield will also toe the rubber.

Gaston, the Junior Bruins' Most Improved Player last spring, hit .571 and drove in 15 runs. A versatile performer, Gaston will also see time at first and third base.

Three catchers will handle the LHS pitchers junior Garrett Faulkenberry along with sophomores Andrew Smyre and Trevor Hammond.

Gaston and Byrd will work at first base, with Jordan, a returnee, set to step into a veteran role at second base. Juniors Kendall Adams and Rico Robinson will also work at second.

Maiden, Gaston, Faulkenberry and Hammond will figure in the team's plans at third base. Maiden and junior Michael Catoe will man shortstop.

Ferguson leads the outfield, with Workman also slated to see time. Juniors Brion Strothers, Bryan Gainer, Kendrick Cunningham, Andrew Cureton and Brandon McGriff will also see outfield duty along with Warfield.

Strothers is coming off a banner sophomore season when he earned MVP honors on the Junior Bruins' baseball squad. Strothers hit .489 with 12 runs batted in and 12 stolen bases in 12 tries.

"The keys for our season are throwing strikes and playing good defense in support of our pitchers," Williams said. "We don't have a great deal of experience, but we have some good, young talent and I feel we will make progress as the season moves on.

"Due to our inexperience, we will have some early growing pains, but I feel we can compete," Williams said.

Williams is assisted by Eric Funderburk, Garrett Hammond, Tyler Anderson and Ryan Crenshaw.

LHS opens its season in the Lake Murray Classic on Saturday when it faces Class AAA foe Lugoff-Elgin High School.

"The Lake Murray tournament again has a quality field and will give us a good indication where we are at this point in the season," Williams said.