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The 2011 Buford High baseball team is banking on its share of experience to deliver a banner season this spring.
The Jackets, under the leadership of third-year head coach Eric Funderburk, return a veteran cast which includes eight starters back from a 14-12 team which finished as the region runner-up to Class A state champion Lewisville and also placed second in the district tournament.
“We have a strong nucleus of veteran players including eight returning starters who have been in our program for several seasons,” Funderburk said. “I feel pitching is our strength and I feel we can go as far as this group of seniors will take us.”
The Jackets sport a solid pitching staff led by senior right-hander Colt Ellis, a five-year starter who earned all-state and all-region honors last season.
Ellis leads a staff which includes battle-tested seniors Ricky Lewis and Logan Segee along with Kholby Pate, a freshman who was the Junior Jackets MVP last season.
Funderburk will also look to Cody Gordon, Marcus Broadway, Kendall Knight, Brandon Miles, Kendrick Trapp and Zach Wright for spot starts and work out of the BHS bullpen.
Senior Tripp Wright, a returning starter, will handle the Jackets’ catching duties. The versatile Miles, a junior, and sophomore Jordan Whitaker will also work behind the plate.
Segee, a three-year starter and an all-region pick last season, is at first base. Miles, Gordon, a junior, and Pate will provide depth.
Ricky Lewis, a three-year starter and an all-region honoree two seasons back, is at second base. Senior Seth Chapman, a three-sport performer at BHS, will also work at second where Knight adds depth.
Jacob Jamison, a four-year starter and the team’s recipient of the Matt Blackwell All-Heart Award, returns at shortstop. Trapp, a junior, will also work at short.
Ellis rounds out a veteran infield at third base. Knight, Whitaker and Gordon will also see playing time at the hot corner.
“We feel our pitching is strong, and our infield play will give them solid support,” Funderburk said.
The Jackets’ outfield includes two returning starters, senior Brett Estridge and junior Jay Chambers. Senior Collin Plyler and Wright, a junior, along with sophomores Skylar King and Marcus Broadway provide quality depth.
Funderburk will be assisted by a veteran staff, which includes Bryan Threatt, Garrett Hammond, Sam Sinclair and Rashad Cunningham, who guides the Junior Jackets’ team.
“The key is staying healthy throughout the season,” Funderburk said. “We have our share of experience, but we need each one because we play a challenging schedule, which features a tough region schedule.
“This region is one of the toughest in Class AA baseball and is going to be a test each time we take the field,” he said. “Central and Cheraw are always tough in this league and I look for Andrew Jackson to be right in there. All three of those teams are well-coached and they will be ready to battle.
“You can’t count out Indian Land and I would rate them as a dangerous darkhorse who will be a factor in the region race.”
Funderburk said the Jackets will have an early idea about where they stand, playing in the Comporium Preseason Invitational, a tourney BHS is co-hosting with Andrew Jackson.
The field includes Chesterfield, Lakewood of Sumter, McBee, Nation Ford, Ridge View, South Pointe along with the co-hosts AJ and Buford.