Lucas looks to returnees to boost Vols

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AJ baseball preview

By Robert Howey



Eight lettermen, including players who started at six positions last spring, give the Andrew Jackson High School baseball program solid hope for the 2012 season.

Third-year Volunteers head coach Mike Lucas said he feels his team can be competitive in a tough Class AA Upper State league with the hope of improving on an 11-13 finish last spring.

“I think we will be competitive each time we take the field,” Lucas said. “Our players have worked hard and done what’s needed to compete.”

The Vols, a Class AA Upper State playoff team last season, have a solid nucleus of players.

Lucas has four seniors including senior outfielder Bobby Delly, the AJ captain and a returning all-region player who will be in center field.

The fleet-footed Delly won the home-to-home base running competition at the annual Gameday at Doomsday baseball jamboree at Lancaster High School last week.

Senior Eric Broughton, the Vols’ 2011 Most Improved Player, will be at third base after splitting time with Garrett Coates at second base last season.

Coates, a senior, will also see action at second base.

Senior letterman D.J. McIlwain will be in left field.

Junior Seth Graves, who earned the AJ Coaches Award, will handle the catching duties with help from Daniel Faulkenberry, a junior.

Junior Sid Watson, who started in the AJ outfield last season, will be at first base.

Coates will be at second, with junior returning starter Chandler Neal at shortstop.

Freshman Kipp Rollings, up from the AJ junior varsity team, provides depth. Broughton handles third.

McIlwain is in left, with Delly in center and sophomore Corley Faulkenberry, who played on the Junior Vols team last season, in right field.

Junior Gavin Clyburn will provide outfield depth along with sophomore Dustin Eddins, who could also start in either left or right field.

Junior Tripp Rollings, a returning starter and all-region pick who is coming off an injury, will be the Vols’ designated hitter.

Lucas can pick from a solid quintet of hurlers, including Chandler Neal, Dustin Eddins, D.J. McIlwain, Eric Broughton and Daniel Faulkenberry.

“We have eight lettermen and some returning starters, but we’re still a young team with only four seniors,” Lucas said. “The key for us is to play small ball well. We have to throw strikes, play defense and put the ball in play.”

Lucas is assisted by Jimbo Barton, Michael Anderson and pitching coach Dean Spencer.

Rick Jackson returns as the Vols’ bench coach and statistician.

The Andrew Jackson junior varsity baseball staff includes Trey Harris, Delmar Patterson, Tommy Wrape and Chris Brasington.

Lucas said the Region IV-AA baseball race is wide open.

“Buford is the defending champion and they will be in the mix with another solid crop of players,” he said. “Cheraw and Central of Pageland are always in the battle and Indian Land returns a solid group of players. Each game will be a challenge, so it’s important that we play consistent, fundamental baseball.”