The Hundred Hornets lost six starters to graduation last spring, but still have enough talent returning to have a successful run in the 2012 season.
How the Hornets replace three of those graduates will go a long way in telling second-year Head Coach Jeremy Kelch and Assistant Coach Terry Riter how the team will fare this year. The alumni players included their top three pitchers and the entire infield except for second base. The team also lost four of its top five batters and two of the top three base runners.
The loss of pitchers Dalton Kuhn, Shane Kuhn, and Zach White will hurt the most. Dalton was first team OVAC, first team All-Valley, and first team Mason-Dixon selection, while Shane had earned second team OVAC and second team All-Valley. White was named to the third team All-Valley.
Also, Hundred lost power hitters Roger Stalnaker, Chris Shackleford, and Zach Jones. However, out with the old and in with the new comes a ray of hope for Kelch. Senior two-year lettermen Nick Phillips and Mitch Moore will be there to bolster a different look that gets Kelch excited about this stage of the game.
Phillips and sophomore Brock Ice will anchor the starting roles in the pitching department, while freshmen Brandon White, Brandon Armstrong, junior Turner Bragg, and senior Mhar Olayan will be fighting for the final starting job in the rotation. Seniors Mitch Moore, Dylan Murphy, junior Chris Varner sophomore Josh King, and freshman Levi Morris will come in as relievers.
The new-look Hornets will come into the season as underdogs, but the younger kids like Brandon White and Brock Ice could have as much talent as has ever come out of Hundred, according to Kelch. "I will be looking for these two boys to step up and compete at a high level from the get-go.
Having Varner back in the lineup will be a big help. Varner is one of the best players in the valley. With the leadership of Moore and Murphy, the younger kids are learning quickly."
The starting infield looks like Moore at first base, while Bragg gets the call at second and is the leading candidate to open the season at shortstop. Ice will hold down the hot corner, while Varner will start behind the plate. Three-year senior letterman Tyler Opyoke is fighting with freshman standout Courtland Armstrong as the backup catcher, while freshman Davin Copeland and Hunter Goddard will be looking for playing time at second and third base.
In the outfield, there are seniors Phillips, Murphy, and Jade Hains as the front runners, while freshmen Brandon and Courtland Armstrong are both working hard to showcase their defensive skills in the outfield.
"With the experience of Phillips and Opyoke, hopefully they can get us off to a fast start," stated Kelch. "I will be playing a lot of freshmen, so hopefully they can mature fast and if they do, I think we can have a very fine season."
Hundred opens the season on the road March 19 at Clay-Battelle, before its home opener March 20 against the Cameron Dragons. Both games are set to start at 5:30 p.m.