NEWBERRY — The 2014 Newberry High School Bulldogs baseball team begins this week in one of the toughest AA regions in the state.
Newberry will be led by Head Coach Lindsey Stribble who is entering his fifth year as coach of the Bulldogs. His assistants include Joey Long, Hu Mills and Brett Newton. Newberry is looking to improve on its 2013 record of 16-5 which tied for second in Region II AA.
“We know the challenges that lay ahead of us and that is okay with us. Our schedule will prepare us for tough situations. Our goal is to be peaking at the end of the season and hopefully make a playoff run,” Stribble said.
This spring should be interesting for the Bulldogs.
“The talent level has improved here at NHS with six seniors leading us this year,” Stribble said.
NHS seniors this year are left fielder Hercules Etheredge, catcher/pitcher Jared Harmon, infielder/pitcher Jack Huggins, infielder Tysheen Nance, infielder Jake Bickley, and outfielder/pitcher Devin Harmon.
Two newcomers this season are Ben Blackmon and Patrick Yoder from the junior varsity team.
The sophomore class currently has five varsity players who will contribute: pitcher/outfielder Ryne Huggins, utility player Deuntrey Gallman, pitcher/infielder Andrew Livingston, outfielder Justin Busby, and catcher Jamie Busby. The lone freshman on the team is Trey Kinard a right-handed pitcher and third baseman.
Justin Busby, Trey Kinard, Jamie Busby, Andrew Livingston and eighth-grader Alec Blackmon might “float” up with the varsity this season depending on how things progress.
Stribble said the pitching staff will go a long way to determining the success of the 2014 Newberry Bulldogs. Going into the season senior right-handed pitcher Jack Huggins, junior left-handed pitcher Kevis Burton, and sophomore left-handed pitcher Ryne Huggins will be the top three starters.
Junior right-handed pitcher Pat Yoder, sophomore right-handed pitcher Andrew Livingston, senior left-handed pitcher Devin Harmon and junior left-handed pitcher Ben Blackmon should see plenty of time on the mound as well.
Senior Jack Huggins will see time as a starter and reliever this year.
“Jack can be a very effective relief pitcher and has the ability to come in and throw strikes and shut down a game,” Stribble said. “Junior Kevis Burton is a strike thrower and has pitched on the varsity since the eighth grade. He will not overpower anybody, but he just throws strikes and will be a very important part of our rotation. Another pleasant surprise from the fall is Sophomore Ryne Huggins, who has the ability to be a really good pitcher. He can also play first base and outfield.”
Stribble said Blackmon, Harmon, Yoder, Livingston and Harmon will be important out of the bullpen as well.
The Bulldog offense is a question mark going into the season, but there is a lot of potential with this group. The top of the line-up will more than likely be manned by Tysheen Nance and sophomore Shai Werts.
Livingston could see time in the two hole with seniors Jack Huggins and Jake Bickley forming a solid top four. Burton, Harmon, Etheredge, Harmon, Yoder or Dee Gallman will round out the batting order.
Bickley, Burton, Yoder, and Blackmon are all left-handed hitters with the ability to make things happen. Blackmon, Gallman and Bickley could also see time in the designated hitter position this season. Gallman will provide plenty of speed for the bulldogs while Blackmon and Bickley should supply the power to move them around the bases and get them in.
Newberry High School will host the Newberry County Junior Varsity Tournament this weekend. Games between Newberry JV, Whitmire JV and Mid-Carolina JV will be played Saturday.
Newberry will play Whitmire at 9 a.m., Whitmire will play Mid-Carolina at 11 a.m. and Mid-Carolina will play Newberry at 1 p.m.