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New faces in lineup have to carry TRM baseball

By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
In recent years, the T.R. Miller Tigers baseball lineup has for the most part been a list of household names. That will not be the case this year…at least in the beginning.
"It seems like for the last few years we've had a pretty set lineup and we've just had to plug in a player here and there. This year we're in the opposite position," T.R. Miller coach Jim Hart.
The Tigers graduated 10 members from last year's squad that went 23-6, shared the Class 3A Area 1 regular season title and won the Escambia County Tournament.
"We had a great a great year. The 23 wins that team had were the second most in school history. Unfortunately one bad day (a second-round playoff loss to Montgomery Academy) soured what we did otherwise a little bit," Hart said.
Before people get the crying towels outs, T.R. Miller's well is far from dry. Most of the Tigers replacements will come from a junior varsity squad that went undefeated last year.
"We don't have the varsity experience that we've had recently, but we've got a group of players moving up to the varsity which is pretty talented. They're used to winning and they expect to win," Hart said.
One of the few places where T.R. Miller has varsity experience is behind the plate where senior Jordan Ball is expected to reside. In fact, Ball has already signed to continue his career at
See TIGERS Page 7A Jefferson Davis Community College.
"Jordan started to take over the starting spot about halfway through last year and did a tremendous job. We're looking for a big year from him both behind the plate and at the plate as well as a leader," Hart said.
Seniors Tyler Chapman and Tyler Shehan are in a close battle for the first base position.
"Right now neither one has an edge. It will probably depend on who hits the most early on as to who will take the spot on a regular basis," Hart said.
Sophomore Baxley Raines is expected to get the call at second base when the season starts. Sophomore Tanner Shehan and senior Justin Curry could also get some playing time and also possibly sophomore Allen Williams later in the season.
"Baxley got a little bit of varsity time late last year as a freshman. We're looking for big things from him. Baxley gives us a good, lefthanded stick. Baxley will also see some time at shortstop, most likely when Jordan Cauley pitches," Hart said.
Junior Jordan Cauley spent most of last season at second base although he did see some shortstop time when Brad Lannom pitched. This year Cauley is expected to make shortstop a permanent job while in the field.
"We would feel comfortable whether we went with Jordan or Baxley at shortstop, but Jordan is a year older and has more varsity experience at the position," Hart said.
Sophomore Becker Denton is expected to get most of the third base work, but sophomore Mackie Jackson will also get some action.
"Becker is a tough player who has hit extremely well at every level he has played. He also has a strong arm. Mackie is a good, solid player as well and he'll play third when Becker pitches," Hart said.
In the outfield, sophomore Brice Martin has the nod for leftfield. Junior Wade McCall could also see some action.
"Brice has great speed. We've been pleasantly pleased so far that he has shown signs in practice of being able to hit with some power," Hart said. "Wade has been injured, but we're expecting him to be able to contribute some out there."
Senior Jacob Salter is expected to patrol centerfield most days. On those occasions Salter goes to the mound, Tanner Shehahn, Martin or junior Mikel Riggs could step in.
"Jacob has tremendous speed and a strong arm. He is a good leadoff hitter and he makes things happen when he gets on base," Hart said.
Riggs will probably get the call for rightfield.
"With Mikel, who has a strong arm, to go along with Jacob and Brice, we probably have the fastest outfield we've had since I've been coaching the program," Hart said. "Mikel is also running track this spring and there could be a couple of dates we won't have him available."
Junior Justin Marshall may not see a lot of time in the field, but could be a big contributor as a designated hitter.
"Justin has been slowed some by a shoulder injury, but weve been tickled to death at how he has been hitting the ball. Justin knows and understands his role. He can really help us with the bat," Hart said.
Cauley, Raines and Jackson, all righthanders, will probably make up T.R. Miller's starting rotation on the mound. Ball, Riggs and Salter, also all righthanders, could follow from the bullpen.
"We probably don't have a true number one pitcher right now, but they should all do a solid job for us. Then we have Jordan, Mikel and Jacob to give them a little rest. There may be days where we pitch as a committee where we might use three or four pitchers," Hart said.
Hart admits the Tigers will have a tough road to reach the state playoffs through Area 1.
"Bringing in Straughn to go along with us and Clarke County and W.S. Neal makes an already good field even better. Straughn was an Elite Eight team last year. I look for Clarke County (which shared the Area crown with the Tigers last year) to be good again and I think W.S. Neal will be a lot better. There will be two good teams sitting home when the playoffs start. I just hope we're not one of them," Hart said.
T.R. Miller Tigers Baseball Schedule
Mar. 1 Escambia County Home 4:30 P.M.
Mar. 4 Jay Home (JV 4 p.m., V 6 p.m.)
Mar. 5 Montgomery Academy Away 12 noon (DH)
Mar. 8 Andalusia Home 4 p.m.
Mar. 11 Clarke County Away 4:30 p.m.
Mar. 15 Andalusia Away 4 p.m.
Mar. 18 W.S. Neal Away (JV 4 p.m., V 6 p.m.)
Mar. 19 UMS-Wright Away (JV 12 noon, V 2 p.m.)
Mar. 21 Straughn Home 4 p.m.
Mar. 22 Flomaton Away (JV 4:30 p.m., V 6:30 p.m.)
Mar. 25 Clarke County Home 4 p.m. (DH)
Apr. 1 Straughn Away 4 p.m. (DH)
Apr. 5 Apr. 5 Escambia County Away 4:30 p.m. (DH)
Apr. 8 Excel Home 4 p.m. (DH)
Apr. 12 Flomaton Home (JV 4:30 p.m., V 6:30 p.m.)
Apr. 14 Jay Away (V 4:30 p.m., JV 6:30 p.m.)
Apr. 15 W.S. Neal Home 4 p.m. (DH)
Apr. 18 Monroe County Home (JV 4 p.m., V 6 p.m.)
Apr. 21-23 Escambia County Tournament at Flomaton