Categorized | Sports

Cougars feature youth in 2014

By Thomas Sellers Jr.Card Ryan Haynes

With the departure of 12 seniors, Munford Cougars Head Coach Jason Johnson knew the 2014 squad would have a new look.
The Cougar coaching staff has welcomed 15 new faces to the program and have handed the leadership reigns to seniors Jessie Charles, Clayton Talley, Ryan Haynes and Ty Gillespie.
“We are pretty young especially compared to last year,” Johnson said. “We graduated 12 and this year we’ve got four seniors coming in. Out of those four seniors, two of them are pitchers and two of them are hitters.”
Charles and Talley will be features on the mound while Haynes and Gillespie will be key defensie players and offensive contributors.
The Munford roster is also composed of 15 freshmen coming off back-to-back middle school league championship.
“I’m very excited about this freshmen class,” Johnson said. “They come in with some success under their belts already. We’re just trying to show them how we do things around here and make them that much better.”
Johnson said that group will have another year to gel as a cohesive unit through JV ball. And he will in the third base coaching box working with that team as well.
Munford Pitching Coach Zach Lowery will help build their arms. He is also working with the varsity hurlers to shut down opponents like Arlington, Christian Brothers and defending State champions Collierville.
“One of the things we’re focusing on this year is pitching,” Johnson said. “We do feel we’re going to be pretty strong on the mound. On the back of our practice jerseys, we have ‘Pitching our way to Murfreesboro.’ That’s our slogan this year. And that’s how we’re going to win baseball game.
Arms to emerge this summer were Kyle Hindman and Haynes. A power hurler for Munford will be Wesley Bass already throwing in the mid 80s. And Zach Stewart will be expected to eat up some innings this season.
The sophomore class features the “three-headed monster” of Jacob Sawyers, Joseph Fulcher and Dusty Baker. The trio went undefeated in varsity appearances last season. All three feature different styles Johnson looks to use to keep opponents off balance.
Offensively the Cougars will take a similar approach trying to keep the oppostion guessing.
“We are an aggressive team,” he said. “We’re looking for doubles this year. That’s our focus everyday in practice, hitting doubles. Then we’re going to work on learning how to control the bat and put the ball on the ground. That will allow us to be very aggressive. We’re a fast team and we have a lot of speed this year.”
At the top of the line will be junior outfielder Caleb Craig. Johnson said he’s a patient hitter with a good on-base percentage.
The middle of lineup will contain Haynes, Hindman, Fulcher, Gillespie and Bass.
“We’re so young, a lot of things we’re going to be looking for,” Johnson acknowledged. “We have our first district game on the seventh day of April. So we have time before we finalize our lineup.”
District 13-3A will be tough with nationally ranked Dyer County. The Brighton Cardinals picked up two wins over Dyer County last year and bring back a lot of talent. Hardin County reached Regionals last season. Johnson said pitching is his team’s top priority and key to winning the league.
“When we go into district games this year and when we go into games against Christian Brothers, Collierville or Arlington,” he said, “we had success against Arlington and Collierville last year because we kept the run total down. Then we were able to sneak one or two more across the plate than they did.
“That’s what we’re going to have to do in district this year, have a strong performance from whoever we have on the mound,” Johnson concluded. “Also we have to have a strong defensive performance behind him. Then we have to get aggressive on the base paths and force mistakes by them. Based on who we’ll have on the mound, I think we’ll be success at doing that.”

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