WITH THE loss of 11 seniors from last year’s squad, Jackson County is officially a baseball team under construction.
The diamond Panthers just wrapped up an extensive summer schedule that included nearly 50 scrimmages combined between the varsity and junior varsity squads.
How did it all go?
“I would say surprisingly well,” head coach Tommy Fountain said.
Jackson County played “about .500 ball,” according to Fountain.
While Panthers held their own in these scrimmages, Fountain said that summer baseball victories are no indicator of regular season success.
“It is what it is,” he said.
Still, comparatively speaking, the results are encouraging, Fountain said. Jackson County went 1-20 in summer ball in 2009 — the year last year’s seniors were entering their freshmen seasons.
The Panthers, 16-10 last year, are coming off what is believed to be the finest season in the school’s history. Now, the program is largely starting over and will press several young players into service this year when the team moves up to Region 8-AAA.The roster includes 16 incoming freshmen between the varsity and junior varsity squads. Jackson County got a chance to play many of those young guys during summer scrimmages.
“They’re all scrappy,” Fountain said. “They really like to get after it.”
The top starting pitchers emerging from the summer were Andrew Fogarty (junior), Joel Ellis (freshman) and Jace Latty (freshman), while lefty Coleman Barbee, a freshman lefty, looked solid in his last few starts.
Casey Dunfee (junior) proved to be Jackson County’s biggest weapon out of the bullpen.
“Pitching has been a pleasant surprise,” Fountain said.
The Panthers roster will include some experience with seven juniors, two of which have really stood out offensively in scrimmages.
“Nick Corso and Ben Brissey have been huge for us this summer.”
Fountain raves about Nick Corso’s speed.
“He’s the closest thing to a true table-setter that we’ve had,” Fountain said.
Meanwhile, Fountain points to Brissey’s strength and ability.
“He’s getting better and better every day,” Fountain said.
Perhaps the biggest question lies with the infield.
Though Fountain said the team has transitioned smoothly to a new catcher, Colby Cole, Jackson County still needs to solidify the rest of the infield.
“I don’t know that we have the infield question answered 100 percent yet,” Fountain said.
Still, Fountain likes what he’s seen this summer. There’s been a mix of freshmen moments with surprisingly good play, but overall he counts the summer experience as positive.
“It’s cautious optimism,” Fountain said. “I don’t think we’ll be as bad as people might think we would be.”
In fact, he’s looking forward to the challenge of moving forward with a new group.
“It’s fun and exciting to kind of turn the page and build on what those guys (last year’s seniors) put down.”