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WSN baseball hopes for big season, not just big finish

By By BRUCE HIXON – Sports Editor
Nobody can argue the W.S. Neal Blue Eagles ended the 2005 baseball season with a bang when they won the Escambia County Tournament championship with a clean sweep of T.R. Miller, Escambia County and Flomaton.
Few will also argue the rest of the season where W.S. Neal was 7-16, 1-5 in Class 3A Area 1 was a disappointment.
Just how well the Blue Eagles manage that task probably depends on well Campbell reconstructs his pitching staff. W.S. Neal lost last season's top hurler, Brandon Douglas, to graduation. Junior righthander Bobby Freeman, who figured to be one of the main cogs for this season, will probably miss this season with a shoulder injury. Bobby Freeman's twin brother James Freeman, also a junior righthander, is currently bothered with tendonitis in his pitching elbow.
Senior righthander Whitney Qualls will probably step into the number one role in the W.S. Neal rotation.
The rest of the rotation figures to consist of junior righthander Josh Sawyer, junior lefthander Josey Brown, senior righthander Eric Howell and James Freeman if healthy. Senior righthander Jimmie Jones could see quite a few innings out of the bullpen.
The W.S. Neal pitching staff will be throwing to a young signal caller behind the plate, as freshman Jacob Cannon is expected to get the nod.
Junior Jared Cooper and senior Spencer Williamson will divide time at first base, a role they shared last year.
Senior Josh Danley has a slight nod over James Freeman for second base.
When they are not on the mound, Qualls and Sawyer will divide time at shortstop. Sophomore Tyler Nall will also get time.
Freshman Jake Smith emerged as a hitting machine down the stretch last year as a designated hitter. While Smith may stay in a DH role, he is also expected to see time at third base with Williamson.
Two of the three outfield spots are up for grabs. Leftfield has competition between senior Josh Carter and Jones. Rightfield has a log jam between senior Justin Cole, senior Eric Howell and Brown.
Junior Justin Smith was W.S. Neal's centerfielder as a freshman. Last year he moved behind the plate at catcher. This year he has gone back to centerfield.
W.S. Neal has been kept out of the postseason field the last three seasons. Campbell said it is a goal to end that drought.
&#8220While we want to get back in the playoffs, we want to play for number one in our area, not number two.”
W.S. Neal Blue Eagles Baseball Schedule
Feb. 27 Spanish Fort Away 3 p.m.
Feb. 28 J.U. Blacksher Home 4 p.m.
Mar. 3 Red Level Home 3 p.m. (DH)
Mar. 4 JV Tournament Home
Mar. 10 Straughn Away 4 p.m. (DH)
Mar. 13 Escambia County Away (JV 4 p.m., V 6 p.m.)
Mar. 14 Flomaton Home (JV 4:15 p.m., 6:15 p.m. V)
Mar. 15 Jay Away (JV 3:30 p.m., V 5:30 p.m.)
Mar. 16 Carver Away (JV 4 p.m.)
Mar. 17 Clarke County Away 4:30 p.m.
Mar. 18 JV Tournament at Monroe County
Mar. 20 Excel Away (JV 4 p.m., V 6 p.m.)
Mar. 21 Carver Home (JV 4 p.m.)
Mar. 24 T.R. Miller Away (JV 4 p.m., V 6 p.m.)
Mar. 27-28 W.S. Neal Varsity Tournament
Mar. 31 T.R. Miller Home 12 noon (DH)
Apr. 3 Escambia County Home (JV 4 p.m., V 6 p.m.)
Apr. 4 Monroe County Away 6 p.m.
Apr. 7 Straughn Home (V 4 p.m., JV 6 p.m.)
Apr. 10 Flomaton Away (JV 4 p.m., V 6 p.m.)
Apr. 11 Jay Home 2:30 p.m.
Apr. 14 Clarke County Home 3 p.m. (DH)
Apr. 17 Spanish Fort Home TBA
Apr. 18 J.U. Blacksher Away 4 p.m.
Apr. 20-22 Escambia County Tournament at T.R. Miller