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"When you're 4-16 (the previous year), you need to get better on all aspects of your game."
So stated Brian Divers when asked about the prospects for this season's version of the Staunton River baseballers.
Last year's young squad took its lumps en route to the basement of the Seminole District. This year, most of the faces from that team return, a bit older and, it is assumed, a bit wiser.
For openers, Staunton River has what many in the Seminole covet: An experienced pitching staff. Chris Terry returns for his senior year. The lanky righty brings a good fast ball, but will need more than just that to realize success. Divers has seen a solid breaking ball and a good change up from Terry this spring.
Michael Williams is a big, powerful lefty. With good control, the junior should provide Staunton River very good opportunities for wins.
Senior Daniel Kihm represents the third part of the pitching triumvirate. Kihm, a righty, has impressed Divers early on and will most likely be relied upon for relief work and for spot starts.
Others who should see some time on the mound include Joey West and lefty Paul Bratton, he of the rubber arm.
While the team lost catcher Jesse Lamb, second baseman Bryce Hayter and outfielders Clayton Walvoort and Josh Frey, this year's version should be able to fill those voids and emerge as a stronger crew.
The infield starts with West, a quick and gritty player who turns plays that are highlight reel-ready. "I love his effort," said Divers. "He gives the same in practice as he does on game days."
West should also find himself leading off the Eagles' batting order.
To West's right, you'll find either Terry or Junior Al Dillon, a solid three-sport athlete at River. Both got decent time at the hot corner last season.
To West's left, replacing Hayter, will be Josh Fernatt, a converted outfielder and probably the Eagles' biggest offensive threat. Fernatt can hit with power, place hit, bunt and has good basepath speed.
First base belongs to Josh LaPradd, a returning starter. LaPradd is big and strong and difficult to strike out. As such, he'll bat cleanup.
Rounding out the infield will be catcher Zack Divers, who moves from the outfield to replace Lamb. Divers has a lot of the same offensive characteristics as Fernatt. On the defensive front, Divers will be key to holding down the opponents' running games.
The outfield will be the only spot that has significant experience shortfalls. Daniel Orange, the sole returning starter, moves from left field to center. Orange moves very well for a big fella (6' 1", 215 pounds). Orange also shows a great amount of toughness. Last year, against Appomattox, ran headlong into a fence and tried to refuse to come out of the game even though he'd put his teeth through his mouth. Let's hope we avoid that scenario this year.
Kihm should man left field, a new position for him. While he's learning the ropes, his offensive production should come in handy.
Jonathan Miller, who batted nearly .600 on JV last year, will see time in right field along with Williams.
The DH role should be filled by David Berger, a hitter who gives problems to pitchers and who tends to find his way onto base somehow.
Divers likes his team's depth. "If we're in a close game, we have lots of guys that can do a lot for us with speed, defense, etc," he said.
Junior Cody Wheeler can fill in at just about any position. If power is needed, 6'3", 220 pound Mitchell Simmons could be the ticket.
Jacob Mashburn, a transfer from Colorado via JF, is a very savvy baserunner while Rob Faucher, returning from a stint in soccer, has very good speed.
Hard working Sam Stevens is able to put the ball in play. The senior has earned the respect of his teammates through his never-say-die attitude.
Divers is looking for some quick successes to set the stage. "If we can be competitive early and build some confidence, we could surprise some people," he said.