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SHEPHERDSVILLE - New season. New field. New era. New attitude.
A new life. That is how the Bullitt Central Cougars are looking at the 2009 season. When the team moves into its new field in two weeks, head coach Tommy Alvey and his squad are ready to begin anew.
“We’re excited to have a new field,” the coach said just before he starts his third season at the helm. “The kids are positive. It’s something the kids are proud of and can call their own.”
Last season, the Cougars were pretty much the Road Warriors. After the first two weeks of the season a year ago, they packed their bags and were vagabonds the rest of the season as the old field was bulldozed for the construction of the new Roby Elementary.
Over the winter, the Bullitt County Board of Education built new ball fields for both softball and baseball back behind Riverview High School, but still along I-65. The process has taken a little longer than expected and Alvey recently had to move some games over the first week of the season to away games.
As the schedule reads now, Bullitt Central will play its first game on the new field on Monday, April 6 against district rival Southern.
The new facility is still a work in progress. In fact, last Wednesday, despite a beautiful spring day, the team was in the gym practicing as workers returned to the field to work on some drainage issues. The baseball field is not quite as far along as the neighboring softball field.
Still, Alvey is confident that the team will play a high number of games this spring at home. The coach is also confident that the facility will be ready to host the 24th District Baseball Tournament starting on Monday, May 18.
“It will take a few years to get everything just right,” the coach said. “We are so excited that it has been provided for us.”
Alvey has been busy trying to rebuild Bullitt Central baseball program. There have been some lean years recently and last year with all the travel was pretty much a lost campaign. The Cougars were only 5-16 a year ago.
To get everyone on the same page, the decision was made this spring not to have a junior-varsity program. The Cougars will play a full varsity schedule as well as a complete freshman slate.
The Bullitt Central roster has 29 players. There will be 15 on the varsity and 14 will be part of the freshman team.
“The team outlook is much more positive,” Alvey said last week. “This is my third year and the kids are working harder than the two earlier years. The kids just have a positive attitude and work hard. All the kids are super excited about the new field.”
Still, the players on the field will make the program, not the field itself.
“I feel like we have the most talented squad since I’ve been here,” Alvey said. “We’re young, but most of the players have varsity experience.
“We have a team goal of having a winning season,” the coach added. “I don’t know how long it has been since we did that. That’s the first goal. If we play well we can achieve that with this group. We had a very successful fall and we’ll try to build on that.”
Obviously, as with any high school team, pitching will play a key role. The Cougars lost their number one pitcher from a year ago, Brandon Duckett, but the rest of the staff returns.
The first two pitchers that will get the ball are junior Austin Mason and Travis Stepp. Mason is a right-hander while Stepp comes from the left side.
When the weather is good and the team needs more starters, Alvey will look to sophomore Josh Wood and freshman Damon Shepherd, a pair of right-handers.
The bullpen will include left-hander Dylan Seago, a junior, along with sophomores Dylan Johnson and Andrew Fleener.
Alvey is also hoping that senior Jason Creason can pitch some innings this spring. The basketball standout has been limited so far this season with arm problems and he will miss at least the first two weeks of the season.
Behind the plate, the Cougars will move junior Cory Brown from third base the starting catcher role. Wood can also play behind the plate if he is not pitching.
At first base, Stepp will be the starter when he is not on the mound. The back-up will be senior Logan Heath who could also be the designated hitter.
The one full-time infielder will be senior Craig Spriggs at second base since the other infield spots will rotate depending on who is pitching.
On the left side of the infield, Shepherd has grabbed the shortstop position while Johnson will be at third base. Creason could play either spot when he returns to the lineup.
The one outfield spot that is nailed down is in centerfield where senior Matt Craven will start. The right field position is a battle between juniors Austin Mason and Josh Waters along with Fleener. In left field, Wood, Waters and Fleener.
At this point, a mystery player for the Cougars will be senior Akeem Bennett. The football and wrestling standout at the school was recruited for baseball this season. It will be his first season playing the sport at this level.
Bennett could play in the outfield and he will certainly be able to do the pinch/courtesy running when not in the regular line-up.
The other player on the roster in the upper grades is sophomore Curtis Goins and he could see time as the designated hitter.
“It’s an exciting time in Bullitt Central baseball,” Alvey concluded. “A new field and a new positive attitude. You can see it in the kids. It’s like a brand new attitude.
“Last year was so tough on the kids,” the coach added. “Nobody quit from last year. They stuck with it. That shows good character.”
Bullitt Central will open the season on Monday against DeSales and will then travel to Spencer County on Tuesday. The team also has a game on Friday at Moore.
Over spring break the Cougars will be taking part in the Valley Invitational. That is a seven-team, double-elimination tournament.
That will lead into the home opener on April 6 against Southern.