Cougars look to take steps up local baseball ladder

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2010 Spring Sports Review

By Mike Farner

    SHEPHERDSVILLE - Building a dynamic baseball program at Bullitt Central has taken a little longer than fourth-year head coach Tommy Alvey expected.

    The good news is that the coach can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. First and foremost, that light is a beacon to the Cougars’ new field. Finally, the maroon and gray have a home.

    It was two years ago that the program had no field as the old one was razed for the building of the new Roby Elementary. A new baseball (and softball) complex was built 18 months ago, but the playing surface was so poor, that the Cougars played just a handful of games there last year, going back on the road for a majority of games.

    Now, after a second sodding job, the field is ready for a season’s worth of games. That news right there is enough to make Alvey smile and look forward to the 2010 season.

    Well that and the fact that the Cougars return every pitcher from a year ago.

    “Our strength is that we return our entire pitching staff,” Alvey said last week. “At this point we look much improved offensively from watching batting practice. We hope that carries over to the games.”

    There is positive karma around the Cougars now.

    “We played a scrimmage game against Bardstown and if we would have kept score, we would have won,” Alvey pointed out. “We saw a lot of positives and things we have to work on.

    “A key to this season will be staying healthy,” the coach added. “We don’t have a lot of varsity experience. We don’t have a lot of older kids on the team.”

    The roster shows five seniors, but one of those is playing for the first time since he was a freshman. There are only three juniors. The rest of the group is made up of younger players including a large group of freshmen and middle schoolers.

    “Our freshmen numbers have increased this year,” Alvey pointed out. “We have a group of very talented athletes at the freshmen level.”

    Five of the freshmen will dress for varsity games.

    Still, talk for the Cougars starts with the pitching staff and that group is led by senior Travis Stepp. The left-hander had the best outings for the Cougars last spring including a 1-0 loss to North Bullitt.

    The Cougar rotation might also have the most left-handers of any program in the area. Three of the senior pitchers, Stepp, Dylan Seago and Sheldon Hoagland are southpaws as well as one of the younger pitchers.

    Two juniors will also do a lot of pitching in right-handers Josh Wood and Andrew Fleener. Sophomore Damon Shepherd started some games last season as a freshman and right-handers John Larison and left-hander Matt Singleton will also pitch. Freshman Bradley Combs could also see some varsity innings.

    For short-term work, Alvey could also turn to senior catch Austin Mason to work a few innings.

    Mason will be catching in a key switch from last season. Fellow senior Cory Brown and Mason switched their catching and third base duties for this season.

    “He has caught some in the past,” Alvey said of Mason.

    The back-up catches will be Fleener and freshman Cody Powell.

    Bullitt Central does return three starters around the infield if you count Brown’s switch to third base. Shepherd was the team’s starting shortstop last season and Stepp will return at first base when he is not pitching.

    The only new player around the infield will be Fleener at second base.

    Support for the infield starters will include Seago and sophomore Tanner Freeman at first base  along with freshman Jacob Muncy at second and eighth-grady Tyler Bray at shortstop. Freshman Jasen Davis could see action at third base.

    In the outfield, Wood will start in center and he will be flanked by Seago in right and Hoagland in left. Depth in the outfield will come from Larison, Singleton, junior Curtis Goins and Combs.

    Alvey and his coaching staff are not looking at the long-ball as being a key for the offense.

    “We do have a really fast team,” the coach pointed out. “We have focused on being line drive hitters. We emphasis that. We do have a few kids who could hit a few out. We also emphasis being aggressive on the base paths.”

    The Cougars might play for closer games.

    “I think our pitching can shut anyone down,” the coach said. “They will get us a lot of ground balls. I would say if we can score five or six runs we’ll be fine.”

    The baseball season is a week longer this spring and there are two weeks of play before the Cougars play in the Valley Invitational over spring break. Alvey will use that time to see what his team can do.

    “Defensively, we have moved some people around,” the coach said. “We do have some questions. I would like to have a set line-up by the time we start district games (the week after spring break). I think some of the younger kids could earn a spot.”

    Alvey didn’t make any major changes to the level of competition the Cougars will face this season. The maroon and gray will open the season at South Oldham on Tuesday and then travel to Spencer County on Friday. The team will play at home twice next week, on Tuesday against Bethlehem and Friday against Waggener.

    Bullitt Central did make a change in the coaching staff with the move of Gary Moore from North Bullitt (where he was the freshman coach last year) to the Cougar staff where he will coach the junior-varsity. David Rummage is returning as the freshman coach. The program also has two volunteer coaches in Billy Allen and Keith McKnight.

    The Cougars have pretty much been relegated to the first game of the district tournament (between the fourth and fifth seeds), but they are looking for better things this spring.

    “I don’t think we’ll settle for anything less than a regional appearance,” Alvey said of something the Cougars have not done since joining the Sixth Region. “All the coaches and players are set on that. We want to play at Jim Patterson Stadium.”