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Pitching, defense key for Warriors

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By Robert Howey

INDIAN LAND – Indian Land High School baseball coach Kevin Durham said defense and pitching are key factors in the Warriors’ hopes this season.IL, 11-13 last season, will shoot to battle for the league title.“I want to be playing for first place and if we do little things like play defense and pitch well, then we will fight for it,” Durham said. “The key areas for us this season are our pitching and defense. If we’re consistent in those two areas, I feel we will have a chance.”The IL defense is bolstered by the return of junior shortstop Alex Rodriguez, who won the team’s Golden Glove Award last season.Junior Alex Matzeit returns at third base to give the left side of the IL infield a solid defense.Sophomore Tyler Watkins will also provide depth at third base.The rest of the Indian Land infield includes senior Alex Sawyer at first base, with Chad Jones, a junior, at second base. Jones was the co-winner of the team’s In the Clutch Award last season.Junior Chad Carlton and Garrett Mallekoote, an eighth-grader, will also see time at first base.Sophomore Jon Edling will work at second.The Warriors’ catching duties will be handled by junior Kevin Lawson and sophomore Tyler Watkins, who won the Indian Land High School junior varsity baseball Cy Young Award last season.The outfield includes a host of underclassmen along with senior Jeremy Turbeville.Carlton will also be in the outfield along with sophomores Zach Johnson, Daniel Thomas, Jon Purcaro and Watkins.As for the IL pitching staff, Durham, 41-36 as he enters his fourth season leading the Warriors, will look to Matzeit, Sawyer, Watkins, Johnson, Thomas, Pucaro and Mallekoote.Durham regards Great Falls as the team to beat in Conference III-A baseball.“They won it last year, so I feel they are the team to beat,” Durham said. “I also feel Chesterfield will have a strong team this season.”Durham will be assisted by former IL standout Alan LeRoy along with Mike Hilliard and Taylor Rutland, who guides the Junior Warriors’ baseball team.Durham said IL’s two fundraising projects – the brick backstop and batting tunnel – are coming along.“The net will be in here in a couple of weeks,” Durham said. “We need to get the brick orders in as soon as possible.“The engraved bricks will be used for a three-foot backstop wall with netting similar to what major league teams use,” he said.The Warriors hope to have the projects completed in time for their annual 100-inning game March 29.