Experience, past success gives TRM baseball optimism
By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
They have veteran players. They have experience. They are coming off a state quarterfinal berth.
No pressure on this year's T.R. Miller Tigers baseball team, right?
"I don't think there is any pressure on this group to win, but we are excited about this season. I think it's going to be a lot of fun. I've been coaching here a long time and this is a special group of players," T.R. Miller coach Jim Hart said.
The Tigers are coming off a 19-9 record in 2003 that saw them win the Class 3A Area 1 championship. T.R. Miller's postseason run did not end until it lost to Dadeville in the quarterfinals.
"We hit the ball well and we played pretty good defense. Our pitching wasn't outstanding, but it was good enough on most days," Hart said.
In addition to last season's success, optimism is high this year due to the fact T.R. Miller returns six starters and four part-time starters. Ten of the 15 Tigers on the roster are seniors.
T.R. Miller's infield has a couple of unsettled positions although first base is not one of them where senior Trent Davidson will reside. Senior Kevin Durden will also see some time there, especially when Davidson goes to the mound.
"Trent is an outstanding first baseman. He is a big target to throw at and he hits with pretty
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good power," Hart said. "Kevin is a lefthanded batter who also hits the ball pretty well."
Second base is a battle between senior Patrick Sorrells and junior Jason Vuong.
"Patrick played at W.S. Neal last year. He has worked well in our weight room. Patrick will also play some at shortstop," Hart said."Jason hasn't played baseball since Babe Ruth, but he is quickly picking up the game again."
Shortstop belongs to senior Brad Lannom except on days when he goes to the mound.
"Brad can play pretty much anywhere in the infield. He started as a shortstop as a freshman and then moved to third base for a while. Now we've got him back at shortstop. Brad is a great leader for us," Hart said.
Third base is one of the few unsettled spots. Seniors Kurt Prater, David Padgett and Danny Brooks will battle for that position.
"At this point Kurt probably hits the ball a little better and he hits with some power, but David is a little better on defense," Hart said.
In the outfield, senior Kyle Rush will get the early call for leftfield.
"Kyle has a good arm and he runs the ball down well. He is also a good contact hitter," Hart said.
T.R. Miller will turn to junior Jacob Salter for centerfield.
"Jacob has good speed and he can cover a lot of ground. He will probably hit leadoff for us. He runs the bases well and can cause the other teams problems if he reaches," Hart said.
Senior Ryan Holland and junior Tyler Shehan are projected for rightfield.
"Ryan was a designated hitter a lot last season and had a couple of homers for us," Hart said. "Tyler played junior varsity last season and he has a little bit better speed."
Hart thinks the catcher's spot should be a good battle between senior Joseph Turner and junior Jordan Ball.
"They're both pretty good. Joseph started there last year and he has a little more power. We may swing whoever doesn't start there to another position," Hart said.
The final roster member, junior Tyler Chapman, could see quite a bit of time as a designated hitter.
The Tigers will probably use a four-man pitching rotation of Lannom, Sorrells, Prater and Davidson. Padgett and Rush could see some time in relief. All are righthanders.
"We probably don't have a true number one pitcher, at least at this time," Hart said.
T.R. Miller Tigers
Mar. 4 Flomaton Away 4 p.m.
Mar. 6 Montgomery Academy Away 12 noon (DH)
Mar. 9 Monroe County Away 4 p.m.
Mar. 10 Excel Home 3:30 p.m.
Mar. 12 W.S. Neal Away 6 p.m.
Mar. 13 Davidson Away 12 noon (DH)
Mar. 16 Jackson Home 4 p.m.
Mar. 18 Excel Away 6 p.m.
Mar. 19 Clarke County Away 4 p.m.
Mar. 22 Gulf Shores Tournament (Pinson Valley) 10 a.m.
Mar. 23 Gulf Shores Tournament (Chilton County at 12:30 p.m., Gulf Shores at 3 p.m.)
Mar. 24 Gulf Shores Tournament (Athens) 10 a.m.
Mar. 29 Escambia County Home 4 p.m.
Mar. 30 W.S. Neal Home 6 p.m.
Apr. 2 Clarke County Home 5 p.m.
Apr. 3 UMS-Wright Away 1 p.m.
Apr. 6 Escambia County Away 6 p.m.
Apr. 7 Jackson Away 5 p.m.
Apr. 9 Flomaton Home 1 p.m.
Apr. 13 Jay Away 6 p.m.
Apr. 15-17 Escambia County Tournament at W.S. Neal
Apr. 19 Monroe County Home 4 p.m.