After a 21-8 (16-4 region) season in 2012, the Commerce baseball team has set a bold precedent.
While the 2013 Diamond Tigers are a young team overall, head coach Steve Cotrell says that expectations are still just as high as ever.
“I think we have got to the point where kids here know we are expected to win,” said Cotrell. “We are not going to make excuses that we are young being the reason we don’t get it done. It will be a learning curve for sure, and our stats may not be pretty some days, but if we can find a way to win the one-run ball games we will be fine.”
The team returns only four starters from the 2012 season, including senior Robert Hayes (1B/P), juniors Keenan Lord (SS/P) and Drew Whitfield (3B), and sophomore Chandler Rodgers (2B/P).
Along with the four veteran starters, Cotrell predicts that junior Daniel Streetman (P), and freshman J’Various Wood (CF) will bolster the starting lineup with their talents.
Cotrell says the other positions are up for grabs between a couple of upper classmen and a slew of freshman talent.
Sophomorre Alec Aguilar and junior Josh Cook will vie for the open spot in right field.
Senior Chase Ledbetter and freshmen Caleb Brooks and Devin Burnett are projected to compete for left field.
Finally, the battle for catcher will be between junior Greyson Cochran and freshman Drew Hulsey.
Cotrell noted the strength of his incoming freshman class and expects many of them to get substantial playing time this year.
While the Tigers ended the 2012 regular season with a stellar 19-6 record, Cotrell said the season ended on a “sour note,” after dropping a series 2-0 to Eagles Landing Christian in the first round of the state playoffs.
“Our team from last year, if it had a weakness, it was a mental block with several teams and getting over the hump in the playoffs,” he said. “Realistically, I would line those guys up against anybody in the state on any given day. We just had mental letdowns at certain times or against certain opponents.”
Cotrell is hopeful that because his team is young, it will not have those same issues when competing against particular teams.
“We will be good on the mound and defensively, but we will have to rely on our base-running and discipline offensively to win games,” added Cotrell.
Cotrell says the goal for the Tigers in 2013 will be to “win the region, and worry about everything else afterwards.”
But in a highly competitive region 8-A, the Tigers will have their work cut out for them.
2012 region leader Hebron Christian and George Walton Academy are returning some strong talent to the mix. Athens Academy and Athens Christian are also expected to be stiff competitors in region play.
For now, the Tigers are spending practice time focusing on foundational skills such as base-running and bunting. Cotrell is also stressing what he believes is key to a successful 2013 season.
“(Individual) stats do not matter as long as you can find a way to win,” he said. “It is definitely going to take a team effort.”