Experienced players highlight SHS team

Published 12:01 am Saturday, February 15, 2014

Many players with significant playing time, a good group of seniors and plenty of potential highlights Straughn’s baseball team as the Tigers start their season on Monday at home against Goshen.

Last season, the Tigers finished in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs, falling to W.S. Neal, who finished in the state semifinals. Additionally, SHS had a losing record by season’s end.

However, it’s a new season for SHS with seven seniors leading a bunch of players who, in Tigers coach John Fussell’s opinion, have playing experience already.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Fussell said. “Of those seven seniors, all of them have seen significant playing time. I had some of them who started from game one all the way through to now.”

SHS lost one senior to graduation last year.

“We have the potential to be much improved,” Fussell said.

The Tigers will be playing again in Class 3A, Area 2 play with rival Opp, as well as Excel and Southside Selma.

Fussell said both Opp and Excel will have good teams this year.

“The area will be pretty tough,” he said. “Opp’s got a little more experience than we do. They’ve got 10 or 11 seniors. It should be pretty evenly matched.”

As far as individual positions are concerned, Fussell’s got a good idea where his players will fit on the field.

“(SHS shortstop) Johnny Owens has a partially torn labrum. He’s limited as to what we can play on the field,” Fussell said. “Lane Sirmon and Taylor Messick will play at short. Keith Edgar and Gunner Wise can play third (base).

“Brett Hudson and Austin Worley are competing right now for the catching spot,” he said. “I’ve got Tucker Lawless and Johnathon Driver paying basketball.”

Lawless can play first base and can provide late-inning relief on the mound.

Pitching wise, the Tigers have a strong cast with Edgar, Hudson, Messick and Brennan Head leading the stage.

Fussell said the key this season is to throw “strikes.”

“We’ve got some good arms,” he said. “We’ve just got to throw strikes and make plays behind them. We’ve got to develop as hitters as the season goes on. Really and truly, what matters is where you finish, not where you started.”

Goals this season for SHS include winning the area, finishing with a winning record and getting past the first round of the playoffs.

First pitch for Monday’s doubleheader is slated for 4:30 p.m.