Key players return for Bearcat baseball team

Published 4:28 pm Friday, February 3, 2017

The big players to watch on the Bainbridge baseball varsity team are almost identical to last year, according to coach Brian McCorkle.

With a few up and comers scattered across the field, the playmakers from 2016’s record-breaking season are back and ready to start the year strong.

“We have so many guys back we don’t have many new guys,” McCorkle said. “We just have so many kids back that played for a couple years now.”

A lot of talent will be seen at the plate, where power hitters Keith Lyle, Connor Strickland and Will Kelley are expected to drive in runs with big hits.

McCorkle said as it stands now, the leadoff hitter is still up in the air. Last year’s leadoff hitters were Caleb Boutwell (.337, 28 hits, 12 RBI) and Carson Inlow (.321, 27 hits, 14 RBI).

“Carson Inlow can do it and Caleb Boutwell did that role last year,” McCorkle said. “It’s about where we can get our run production. We are going to have to move it around a little bit to get some consistency.”

McCorkle added Clark Wiggins is also a candidate for leadoff hitter because of his ability to set the table for runners in scoring position.

The big pitcher to keep an eye on is Will Kelley, who McCorkle is certain will be No. 1 in the rotation. After that, though, the jobs are still open for competition.

Sophomore Nick Barber, a lefty who pitched in the first game against Buford in the second round of the 2016 playoffs, is a likely candidate for one of those spots.

“He is a kid that has played a lot of ball,” McCorkle said. “We didn’t bring him along too fast last year and we are looking for him to get somewhere in our rotation.”

Lawson Lane, Walt Burrell and Dalton Harrell are also expected to lend their arms. Noah Thomas, who will start as catcher, has a strong arm that McCorkle said is getting stronger by the day.

“He has looked really good on the mound this spring,” McCorkle said.

Bainbridge gets its first taste of non-friendly competition next Wednesday as the Bearcats travel to Valdosta for a scrimmage. The season begins Monday, Feb. 13, against Lee County at 5:30 p.m.