Bobcats aiming high

Published 12:02 am Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Opp's DaKota King throws during practice Monday afternoon. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

Opp’s DaKota King throws during practice Monday afternoon. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

Opp players set goal to make it to Montgomery

The Opp Bobcats have one goal in mind for this baseball season — to get to Montgomery.

Last season, OHS finished 22-9 and in the second round of the Class 3A state playoffs as they fell in a sweep to W.S. Neal, who finished in the semifinal round.

On the first day of team meetings, the 11 seniors who lead the team were asked what they wanted to accomplish by the Bobcats’ coaches.

OHS head coach Michael Cassady said their answer is painted on the big picture.

“Hopefully, if we put that in their mind, then day one; game one will take care of itself,” Cassady said. “Right now, if we can set our goal that far, hopefully day by day, we’ll achieve it.”

This season, OHS is returning seven starters — all seniors — from last year’s team. The Bobcats are looking to fill needed positions at catcher and first base, Cassady said.

The coach said that senior Jacob Johnson and junior Walker Messer are competing for the catcher’s spot.

In the outfield is where Cassady is the most excited.

OHS will have three experienced seniors in Zane Hollinghead, Brady Vidich and Colt Harrell returning for duties in the big field of grass.

“They’ve got great arms, they call can run and they all have a chance to play a the next level,” Cassady said. “I’m very excited about my outfield.”

Additionally, Cassady said he has all of his pitching staff back from last year, too, notably seniors DaKota King and Ethan Davis, along with sophomore Britt Buckelew. King and Davis combined for 16 wins on the mound for OHS last season.

Area play for Opp will again be held in Class 3A, Area 2 with rival Straughn, Excel and Southside Selma.

In three of the last four years, the Bobcats have won their area championship — 2010, 2012-13— and finished in the second round of the playoffs.

Cassady said it’s a toss up at who can win the area this year.

“Straughn and Excel were a big series (last year),” he said. “All six games were close. All lost some key players. Anyone of us can win the area again. Selma has a bunch of good athletes this year, and we’ve got to go up there this year to play at their place.”

To help the Bobcats hopefully get to the playoffs and beyond, Cassady said he put together his toughest schedule since he’s coached at OHS this season.

The Bobcats will be playing three defending state champions in Class 2A’s G.W. Long, Class 3A’s Trinity Presbyterian and Class 4A’s Charles Henderson during the regular season. OHS will play CHHS three times in its series against the Trojans.

“I thought better competition will get the best out of you,” Cassady said when he made the schedule after the season last year. “It’ll get you ready for the playoffs, and hopefully we’re fortunate to make the playoffs this season.”

Fortunately, Cassady said he’s got a good group of 17 boys who he thinks will be able to do something great in 2014.

“This group has been together since they were 5,” he said. “Just like the other day after practice is over, they all — 17 of them — go eat at the restaurant together. They’re a close group. You’ve got to have that. They spend time together away from the game.

“That’s what you’ve got to have, that bonding together on the team, not only on the field, but away from the game,” he said. “It makes it a lot easier on me when they bond together like that, and hold each other accountable.”

The Bobcats will start their 2014 campaign on Thursday at home against New Brockton. First pitch is slated for 6 p.m.