By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Several college signees and crucial everyday pieces from the 2012 Millington Trojans departed from Head Coach Billy Davis’ program.
But the summer gave the second-year leader of the Trojans hope for this season and extended future.
“We graduated a lot from last year,” he noted. “We had 10 seniors. Seven of them started for me. We lost a lot of talent on the field with that senior class.
“But we’ve got a pretty big junior class taking their spots this year,” Davis added. “That junior class were sophomores last year.
During the summers, they played up, a lot of varsity ball. So hopefully that experience will translate into varsity, quality playing time this year. They’re going to be able to compete. We should have a good class of juniors that should be able to carry us throughout the spring.”
Davis said he will combine the up and coming junior class with his five seniors to try to earn one of the top two spots in District 14-3A. With everyone chasing the Bartlett Panthers and defending State champions Arlington Tigers, Davis said he will need leadership from all his upperclassmen.
The five seniors are Zack Gamble, Hunter Nolen, Chris Neuhalfen, Jerick Newsome and Arlington transfer Dalton Dersey. Neufluen will be the leader of the Trojan pitching staff.
“We’ve always worked just as hard or harder than anybody in this Region,” Neuhalfen said. “We come out practicing on Saturdays just to get that extra run or sprints in. We’re always pushing it to the limits every time.
“We’re hitting better this year and we’re throwing more strikes,” he added. “And we’ve got a new coach this year with Coach Ellis. He’s doing a tremendous job of teaching us how to pitch and getting our fundamentals back to where they need to be.”
Neuhalfen has been working on his offspeed stuff. He will be one of Davis’ top district pitchers. Gamble is another top arm on the staff.
Davis said 12 pitchers threw bullpen this offseason. And players like Jacob Copeland, Nolen, Lucas Van Emelen and Colton Greganti will see time on the mound. The player behind the plate catching team will be Calvin Hodges.
The junior will come from behind the plate in certain situations to close.
“You can get through a week with four or five games, and you’ll have all your starters,” Davis noted. “Then you’ve got a couple of guys who can come in for you at the end of the game.”
Behind a Millington hurler in the field will be athletes like Newsome. The senior was the starting point guard for Trojan Basketball. That sport came to an end in the first round of the district tournament.
Newsome said he will make sure he will do everything in his power to help the baseball team go as far as it can.
“We’re the underdogs,” Newsome said of the baseball team. “A lot of people love to come and see the underdogs play because the underdogs are always going to play hard. So we’re coming to upset some people this year.
“I’ve been through the experience of losing too early,” he added. “And I didn’t like the experience too much. I agree with everybody else, the basketball season ended too early. So I’m going to talk to the baseball team and keep them motivated to want to go further.”
Newsome will do some talking on the field from second base. Also in the infield for the Trojans will be Carter Hawkins, Gamble, and Copeland. In the outfield, Deresy and Van Emelen have two spots secured. But in leftfield several players are competing for that spot. Most likely whoever wins out the leftfield spot will be another speedster in the batting order.
“We’ve got some speed at the top,” Davis noted. “We’re going to go with Newsome and Van Emelen. Two speed guys, and then will go with power in the three, four, five. We’ll probably go Hodges, Chapman and Tyler Harrison. He’s going to be our DH this year. He has a lot of pop in his bat. He can hit for extra bases.
“The top of the order is pretty much set,” he added. “They’ll set the table for those power hitters.”
Over the years teams like Bartlett and Arlington have used power, timely hitting and good pitching to win District 14-3A.
“Bartlett is well coached and of course you can’t count out the defending State champions Arlington Tigers,” Davis said. “Arlington Tigers look to be tough. They return a lot guys. And they’re well-coached.
Davis said his team will have to battle the likes of Cordova and Bolton to have a shot at the big two. And he said his players just need to do the basics.
“Pitching and defense,” he concluded. “That’s where we lost those games last year and years past since I’ve been here. I think this year with the pitching I have we can throw more strikes and keep those guys at bay offensive. If we can just stratch a run. I would love to beat them 1-0 in the district play-in to get to the championship so we can make it to the Regionals.”