SHS ready to hit the field

Published 11:59 pm Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Next Monday will start a new baseball season for the Straughn Tigers and head coach John Fussell says his team is ready.

Last year, the Tigers finished 15-15 on the season, were area champions and made it to the first round of the playoffs.

Fussell said one of his team’s goals is to make it deeper in the playoffs this year.

“My first year here we were area runner-ups and last year we won our area,” Fussell said. “But, we didn’t have Luverne in that area. Our first goal of course is to win our area and have a winning season.

“We went to the first round the last two years and we’ve never gotten out of the first round, so we would love to be able to do that — to go deeper in the playoffs.”

As far as depth on the team, Fussell said his players have experience.

“We’ve got four guys that have got a good bit of experience pitching,” he said. “One big plus is that most of these guys are required to make the same workouts in the summer whether they play football or not. Coach (Trent) Taylor works them out hard in the weight room and you can see that. There’s marked improvement in the way the ball comes off the bat, now.”

Fussell said he is happy, because the number of seniors on this year’s team is the most he has had since he coaching at Straughn.

“I’ve got five or six players that have been starting on varsity since they were in eighth grade and now they are 10th graders,” Fussell said. “So, this is the first year that I’ve had more seniors. I have three this year and I finished with two my first year and one last year.”

Fussell said this year’s schedule is going to be tough with the number of match ups against big schools.

“Our schedule is a lot tougher this year,” he said. “We’re playing Enterprise, Headland, Valley High School, Alexandria, Daleville High School — which was a third round team last year — Beulah and we’ve got Andalusia four times this year. They always have a good ball team. Not to mention that Luverne is in our area.”

When asked which games are the most important this season, Fussell said “every single one of them.”

“Last year we started and at one point we were like 8-1 and then we hit a little skid,” he said. “It’s important for us to gain a lot of experience, to gain a lot of wins early and get some confidence.”

Fussell said he is comfortable with his team in that they know what is expected of them on the field.

“This is the third year I’ve had these guys,” Fussell said. “I don’t really have to get on to them. They know what I expect from a hitting standpoint, a fielding standpoint and from a pitching standpoint. They know what is expected from them.”

Straughn will start its season at home Mon., Feb. 16 with a doubleheader against Brantley. First pitch is at 1 p.m.