McClain High School baseball coach Rich Bunner said he hopes his large underclassmen base will gain valuable experience this year, and, with the help of a multi-talented group of returning lettermen, improve on their record from last year.
“For the team, I’d say experience is a priority,” he said. “We’re a young team, we’ve got a few seniors, but we’ve got a lot of underclassmen. We’ve got some good kids who can pitch… My expectations are high. We have a great group of kids. We’re young, but it’s exciting.”
Returning seniors Jay Beatty and Jacob Easter will bring experience to the infield, while Dakotah Duncan and Camden Yates, both juniors, will play second base and center field, respectively. Freshman Sam Faulconer will be a key newcomer behind the plate, Bunner said, and Austin Booth, a sophomore returning to the diamond after a successful freshman year, will play as short stop.
“He can cover some ground, that’s for sure,” he said.
Bunner said his team’s strength lies in their defense.
“We’re pretty solid defensively,” he said. “We’re good at hitting, and we’ve got tons of pitchers… They can all pitch, which is really good. We’re pretty loaded with talent – I feel like I can play any kid at any time in any position.”
Another strength Bunner said, is his team’s intelligence on the field.
“The kids believe in the program, and everything I’ve been teaching them defensively, they’ve been picking up,” he said. “They’re really intelligent. I’d rather have a smart player who’s intelligent than a talented player who’s not smart.”
Bunner said the challenge will be putting experience behind the brains – and if they can do that, they may be able to improve on their record from last season.
“I’d say our weakness is just our young age,” he said. “What I want to do is just keep the errors down. Last year, our hitting was low, so I want that to come up. We only won two out of 16 games last year, so I want to improve, without a doubt. One thing I was really proud of in the kids last year was that we were really in a lot of games… Wins and losses aren’t always what it’s about – to a certain degree, it’s how competitive you are while you’re in the game, and we were there.”
Bunner said he hopes the team will get to a point where McClain baseball has a reputation in the league this season.
“I want to get to a point where we can be feared in the league,” he said. “I’d be satisfied with finishing at least 8-4 or 6-6, even though my ultimate goal is to go undefeated. You want to be realistic, but what I tell the kids is, ‘Shoot for perfection, never give up, and stay competitive.’ I’m just excited for the year to start.”
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.