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The Lancaster High School baseball program sports its share of optimism heading into the 2013 season.
Bruins’ fifth-year head coach Brett Blackmon returns a strong cast of players who helped the 2012 LHS team earn a Class AAAA Upper State playoff bid after a third-place finish in region play.
“We have 16 returnees and we could field an entire senior lineup,” Blackmon said. “I’ve never had that in 30 years of coaching high school baseball.”
The Bruins, who finished 11-13 last season, are armed with a solid pitching staff which includes seniors Jordan Brock, C.D. Pelham, Gabe Glover and Cody Cooper along with juniors Doopy Cloud and Brady Collins.
Brock, an all-region pick, earned the team’s Most Valuable Pitcher Award last spring.
The bulk of that staff played a key role in the Lancaster Dixie Pre-Majors all-stars winning the 2012 state championship and earning a bid to the Dixie Pre-Majors World Series in Guntersville, Ala., last summer.
Senior Marshall Jackson, a veteran at the plate and known for his defensive prowess, is the LHS catcher as a second-year starter.
Senior Gabe Glover, the No. 1 student in the LHS Class of 2013, returns at first base as a seasoned player.
Junior Jordan Caroway, the Junior Bruins’ Most Valuable Hitter Award recipient last season, will work at second base along with senior Trey Payne, who is back this season after missing last spring.
Senior Wyatt Duncan moves across the diamond from first base to handle the hot corner at third base.
“Wyatt has dropped 20 pounds since last season, so we feel he can be a real asset at third,” Blackmon said.
Senior Grayson Snipes, a three-year starter, will be at shortstop. Snipes will play at the next level after signing with Limestone College last fall.
Senior Khory Phillips, an all-region pick last season and the Bruins’ Most Valuable Hitter Award recipient, will be in left field, with junior Doopy Cloud in center field.
“Doopy will be the fastest player on the field,” Blackmon said. “He will be in center field when he’s not on the mound.”
Senior Cody Cooper will also see action in center field.
Seniors Brandon Cato and T.J. Cauthen will see time in right field.
Blackmon noted Pelham and Brock can help at any position on the field and will be called on to do so.
Blackmon added junior Jason Dobbins, who earned the Junior Bruins Most Valuable Pitcher Award last season, has been lost for season and is scheduled to have foot surgery.
“Jason is really a good player and I hate he won’t be playing this season, but we’re glad he has another year to come back and help us,” Blackmon said. “He’s still a big part of this team.”
Blackmon said the region race will be tough.
“Top to bottom, I don’t see one team who will dominate over other teams in our region,” he said. “There’s a great deal of balance in our region.
“We tell our players to play like you’re 12,” Blackmon said. “By that, I mean play like you’re an experienced player as a 12th grader. Our junior players have high expectations, too.
“At the same time, find that special love for the game which you had at age 12 in Dixie Youth Baseball.”
Blackmon will be assisted by Ben Roberts, a former Great Falls High player who played under Blackmon at GFHS before moving to Anderson University.
Josh Pauling returns to lead the Junior Bruins’ baseball program and he will be assisted by Palmer Hudson, who guided the Lancaster junior American Legion team last summer. Hudson also worked with the Buford High Junior Jackets’ baseball team a year ago.
“With our experience and a solid group of veterans, we feel good about our team, but we know we have to go out and play,” Blackmon said.