Playing to a different tune

Published 12:01 am Friday, January 17, 2014

Andalusia shortstop Grayson Campbell goes for a ground ball. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

Andalusia shortstop Grayson Campbell goes for a ground ball. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

Andalusia begins baseball season Feb. 18 at Brantley

Andalusia’s baseball team isn’t talking about losing in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs anymore.

The Bulldogs are playing to a different tune as they get ready to start their 2014 campaign in just over a month at Brantley.

At the moment, AHS and other high school teams are currently in a “throwing” period of work. The first official day of practice is Jan. 27, when players can start hitting.

This season, the Bulldogs have 10 seniors leading the charge on the diamond in Quinton Maddox, Justin Scherzinger, Grayson Campbell, Ross Graham, Jud Rogers, Will Harrison, Evans Barnes, Brandon Smith, Peyton Maddox and Daniel Henderson.

AHS first-year baseball coach Tyler Dent said the seniors are a “special” bunch.

“They’ve been together for who knows how long now — it’s that kind of class, which is good,” Dent said. “They work together well as a group. That’s a good thing and it carries down to the other guys.”

An additional aspect about the team that Dent said he likes is the number of players.

The Bulldogs are fielding between 26-27 players.

“That gives me the opportunity to have the younger guys out here as well,” Dent said. “That’s something I’m looking forward to carrying on throughout the year, is having the younger guys out here with the older guys.”

Andalusia will be playing again in Class 4A, Area 2 with Hillcrest-Evergreen, Monroe County and Wilcox Central.

The Bulldogs won their area last season to earn the right to host the first round of the playoffs, which they lost 2-0 to UMS-Wright. Last year was the second year in a row AHS didn’t get past the first round.

Dent said the fun part about playing against the same area teams in a three-year cycle is the inconsistency.

“You never know from year to year in high school who is going to get who, and who is going to transfer in and what coach is going to do a good job,” he said. “That’s the funny thing about it is in the past, no (that didn’t happen), but now who knows?

“That’s the fun thing about it. They’ll have athletes, we know that,” he said about the other area teams.

There haven’t been any positions solidified on the team; however, Dent said he’s already got two — Graham and Scherzinger — players at catcher, and Campbell at shortstop.

Additionally, at pitcher, Dent will utilize Graham, Quinton Maddox and Henderson on the mound.

“I know those kinds of guys who can get the job done in any kind of situation, and coach (Matt) Johnson and coach (Matt) Mellown and I have talked about Justin Scherzinger in a closing role. He’s got some good stuff from the side-arm slot,” he said. “He’s got that mentality on the mound late in the game you’re looking for.”

Mellown and Johnson will be coaching the pitchers and outfielders, respectively.

“I’m blessed to have a good coaching staff,” Dent said. “It’s a great staff. We’re looking forward to it.”

After Brantley, the Bulldogs will play Trinity, Stanhope Elmore and Brewbaker Tech in the first slate of games. Then on March 1, AHS will host Straughn for a junior varsity and varsity tournament. Each squad will get to play two games. On March 13, the Bulldogs play in Opp’s tournament.

“I try to load up pretty solid at the beginning of the year, and see where we’re at,” Dent said. “We’ll see how good we are early.”

When asked if the team had set any goals for the year, Dent said there is one thing he is selling to his players every day.

“When I got here, I was tired of hearing the first-round stuff,” he said. “I told the guys I don’t want to hear anything about the first round (losses). We want to talk state championships. We want to talk about big goals.

“Definitely getting into the playoffs and getting past the first round is a goal, but our sights are set on Montgomery, which everybody’s is,” he said.