Last spring, the Cane Bay Cobras were picked to finish last in the region.
Same story this spring.
The question is can this bunch do what the Cobras pulled off in 2013, finishing well ahead of the curve in second place.
“We want to exceed expectations again,” Cane Bay coach Shane Todd said. “Last year’s team overachieved and finished second after being picked last, so the challenge is there once again. Hopefully the hard work and dedication of these young men will pay off for them. We want to put ourselves in a position to win a championship.”
The Cobras have a number of players returning with experience, but only bring back two everyday starters in seniors BJ Thompson at third base and Trey Burdette at shortstop. Both were also used on the mound last spring and will be expected to handle that role again as key relievers.
They were also team leaders offensively last year. Thompson batted .358 with 12 RBIs and eight stolen bases. Burdette hit .283 and stole a team-high 14 bases in 15 attempts.
The strength of this year’s squad should be pitching depth. The Cobras have eight capable arms that should be able to keep them in ballgames, Todd said.
Todd’s team has four left-handed starters in senior Cody Maw (1-1, 2.58 ERA), junior Billy Detyens (0-2, 18.67 ERA), junior Chris Hitchman and sophomore Tanner Coleman (0-3, 6.76 ERA). The group combined for 54-plus innings last season.
“We feel comfortable handing the ball to any one of them and knowing they will go out and battle,” Todd said.
Thompson and Burdette are righties with good velocity on the fastball.
Juniors Bryce Singletary and Johnathan Bowman will also work out of the bullpen as well.
Defensively, the Cobras are aiming to fill six of the everyday positions with new starters. Sophomore Cameron Rozal will anchor the defense from behind the plate. He had significant playing time last year as a freshman and Todd said he is expecting Rozal to continue his growth as the field general.
Detyens or Hitchman will man first base and serve as designated hitter most of the time.
Two or three players could see action at second base depending on who has the hot bat and who is on the mound. Senior Christian Dutton will get the first opportunity with Thompson a possibility as well. Todd said Junior Luke Paez has improved great with his hard work in the weight room and will be pushing for playing time.
Third base will be held down by Thompson but Singletary could see a large amount of time there as well.
Burdette won the shortstop position in 2013 and has improved his hands in the offseason. The competition there will be to see who fills in when he is on the bump, and there are a number of candidates.
The outfield is an area with some good athletes so the Cobras have good depth out there. Senior Cody Maw is working in left field with Coleman and senior Jacob Page working in center field. Page is coming off ankle surgery from football and he should hold down center field when fully healed. Coleman will then man right field. Bowman, Dutton, and Thompson could all see time in the outfield depending on our pitching situation.
Offensively, the Cobras will once again rely on small ball to be successful.
“We have some athletic young men who are aggressive and we intend on putting pressure on the defense by trying to create scoring opportunities,” Todd said. “We have a team approach to offense that has worked for us in the past. We don’t have to be great hitters, just tough outs. Each batter has to have the attitude that he will do whatever is needed for us in that at bat.”
The Cobras took advantage of the new South Carolina High School League rule that allowed fall practices.
“Our coaching staff worked fundamentals in the fall and we believe we will see the fruits of our labor here in the spring,” Todd said. “We feel this group’s chemistry and work ethic will be the cornerstones for the season.”