SHEPHERDSVILLE – Over the past several seasons, Bullitt Central baseball coach G.J. Moore has seen his team slowly improve to the point where the program won as many games last season, ten, as it had in any season over the past decade.
The product on the field is definitely getting better for the Cougars and now, with nine seniors, the program is looking not only for more wins, but more important wins. Under Moore, the Cougars had not won a post-season game and they have failed to beat either of their county rivals – Bullitt East or North Bullitt.
The foundation for this season is that the program has 45 players with the nine of those being seniors.
“We definitely don’t have any numbers problem, that’s for sure,” Moore said last week. “We have a really good group of young kids.”
Still, Moore knows that his team is not deep in pitching. To counter that, the coach took advantage of a second-year rule by the Kentucky High School Athletic Association that allowed the team to start playing games ten days earlier than the traditional starting date of the first Monday after the second of the two basketball state tournaments. With just as many games scheduled (41, even though they will not play more than 36), Moore has set up the schedule with no more than four games in any one week.
That has sort of backfired at this point as poor weather has kept the team indoors. In addition, both of the team’s scrimmages were canceled due to the weather as well as at least the first two games of the regular season that were scheduled for last week.
“The weather has put us in a big bind,” Moore said. “We’re pretty much just working on fundamentals. I think we’re further along in some things, but we haven’t seen a lot of pitching. The first few weeks will be a test.”
But then the coach pointed out what could be a key for the program to start winning important games.
“Attitude-wise we’re further along,” Moore pointed out. “We’re seeing some changes.”
Bullitt Central has outdoor hitting cages and a covered mound outside, but the team has only been on the field for full-scale intra-squad work once this season.
Pretty much any pitching by the Cougars this season will be from the right side. Moore says he has to go down to the eighth-graders to find any left-handed pitching. Bullitt Central has some left-handed hitters, just no southpaw pitchers.
Heading up the pitching staff will be a pair of seniors – Ben Parker and Bradley Combs. The two got a lot of experience last season. In addition to pitching, both players will be in the line-up every day at other positions.
Recently, Parker committed to playing baseball at Southeast Illinois Junior College next season. Combs, who was the starting quarterback on the football team in the fall, is still deciding both on a college as well as on which sport he will play at the next level including the option of playing both football and baseball.
After those two pitch, the rotation will also include senior Jasen Davis as well as junior Zack McCauley. McCauley was 5-0 last season and has the team’s only shut-outs, but he has been slowed by a leg injury this spring and is presently not able to play.
Adding to the pitching staff is sophomore Nick Caswell, a transfer from South Oldham.
If he breaks it down between starters and relievers, Moore will be looking at bullpen help coming from juniors Dakota Mason and Jayme Curtis as well as senior Jake Muncy.
The only new senior to the program is Kevin Ford. He played basketball this winter, but he joined up with the Fall Ball team and did some pitching for the squad that won that league title.
Behind the plate, Bullitt Central has experience with senior Cody Powell returning. Powell will be backed up by junior Tyler Bray who will start the season at third base. If Bray moves behind he plate, then Caswell will play at third base.
A key player for the Cougars this season according to Moore will be Davis. He will move from the outfield to first base this spring when he is not pitching.
“If any of our guys can have a big year for us it will be him,” Moore said. “He’ll have to have a big year.”
Also seeing action at first base will be senior Dylan Neal. He is returning from a broken foot so might be limited in playing time early in the season.
Up the middle, the Cougars will have Curtis at second base while Muncy will be the shortstop. Muncy is back in the program after not playing as a junior.
In the outfield, the starting line-up will change based on who is pitching as both Combs and Parker will be there when not on the mound. Combs will be in centerfield every day that he is not pitching as he covers a lot of ground.
“He makes everyone’s job easier out there,” Moore said.
The third regular outfield candidate will be senior Casey Goins.
Other candidates for playing time in the outfield include senior Aaron Dewitt along with juniors Tyler Earle and C.J. Phillips. Moore also said that sophomore Michael Harris could also see some varsity action along with freshman Cameron Dukes who has already seen varsity action this school year in both football and basketball.
“I think on offense I’m feeling very good with that,” Moore said. “We do have to cut down some on strike-outs. I think we can definitely score some runs.
“Last year our ERA was not low,” the coach added. “This year I feel a lot better about the pitching.”
Moore thinks this could be a very good season up and down the schedule.
“I feel really good about all three levels,” the coach said of playing full schedules for varsity, junior-varsity and freshmen. “I’m excited with this group. We have a lot of tough games. There are not very many gimme games there.”
One again, Moore will be assisted by Todd Eastridge and Roy Taylor. The volunteer assistant coaches are Troy Blakely and Todd Moore.