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Cougars look to reload for another run in 2018

By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Preview CougarScotty Yount’s first year as the Skipper for the Munford Cougars was one for the ages.
The veteran baseball mind inherited 12 seniors on the brink of reaching their potential. In late April, those players emerged in all phases of the game. Under the guidance of Yount and his staff, the 2017 Munford Cougars reached the school’s first Class 3A State Baseball Tournament in 13 years.
Now on the brink of the 2018 season the Cougars have to replace about 75 percent of their production that made the historic run. Yount’s mindset to get his second Munford team ready is “feet to the fire.”
“Our schedule is really competitive just like last year,” he said. “I feel like going into the season if we’re at .500 going into the district tournament, we’ve beaten some good teams and we’ll be prepared. That’s how competitive the schedule is.
“First of all our district is pretty tough within itself,” Yount continued. “Other notables, we have Arlington in the first week in the Lewis Harris. We’ve got Bartlett twice on the schedule. We have the Murfreesboro trip with Wilson Central, Hardin Valley and Stewart Creek.”
In addition the Cougars will face traditional powers in the USA Classic and take on area notables like Collierville and USJ. Then right before facing District 13-3A foes Liberty, Brighton, Hardin County and Dyer County, Munford will participate in a showdown with Tipton County rivals the Covington Chargers.
The Cougars will need all the arms they have to take on the demanding schedule. In a preseason scrimmage, Munford threw a combined no-hitter with 17 strikeouts.
“I feel like our strength this year is going to be our pitching staff,” Yount said. “You’re looking at Nick Johnson, Nate Mathis, Michael Perry and not necessarily in that order.”
Others that will step to the mound in 2018 will be AJ Hamblin, Dusty Morris, Jacob Smith and power hitter Steve Kendrick.
“Thing about these guys, they’ve all been a year in the making,” Yount noted. “They’re not battle-tested. But they will be with our schedule.”
Kendrick will be a focal point of trying to produce runs for the Cougar pitchers in 2018.
“Top returner without a doubt is Kendrick,” Yount said. “He’s a guy who has hit 20 home runs over the past two seasons. And that doesn’t happen much anywhere in high school. He hit .336 for us last year.”
Kendrick only struck out 13 times in more than 150 plate appearances. On defense Kendrick will move some from third base and get behind the plate to direct the Cougar pitching staff. Yount said he will work on developing a couple of underclassmen behind his senior for the future catching duties.
Another solid bat returning to the lineup will be Riley Bampfield. The junior will play in the outfield and provide some pop in the batting order after hitting .347 with two home runs down the stretch. Bampfield had the game-winning RBI against Arlington in Regionals.
“A lot of new guys,” Yount said. “That’s something we started on the August I got here. It’s a process and you just hope it carries over year to year. We’re implementing our program in the middle school. Hopefully they’re catching on when they get here.
“But that’s a big one, team chemistry,” he concluded. “Even if you have a system, the team has to come together and believe in what you’re doing. And that team finally did last year. It took a while with so many seniors. And you never really know if the new group is buying in until you play somebody else.”

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