Mountain Lions look to youth in 2018

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, March 14, 2018

In his second year as the head coach for Pineville, Chris Murphy saw his team improve in multiple areas. Pitching improved as well as defense which resulted in the team being able to stay in ball games. Fast forward to this year and the Mountain Lions are without many of those seniors who made an impact last year.

Pineville will rely on a young team in 2018 that sports only one senior and three juniors. The majority of the team are sophomores with a few freshmen also having the potential to find their way on the field.

“The guys have been working hard. We only have one senior this year — Josh Holland — and then everything else is underclassmen,” said Murphy. “We got three juniors, a ton of sophomores and three freshmen. We’re going to be pretty young again this year, but the guys have been working their butts off. (We’re) looking for better things this year, hopefully more wins.”

The Lions took a hit losing ace pitcher Will Adams and Tucker Woolum to graduation. As a result, Pineville will pitch by committee with the focus being placed on junior Deon Coffman.

“(Deon Coffman) will probably be our ace,” said Murphy. “We got two freshmen — Jonathan Simpson and Reese Capps. Those two guys will fill in. They will probably be our two and three.

“Actually, I’m throwing about everybody on the team. Reed Baker, Josh Holland, Cole Gent, Cody Goodin — all of those guys will get opportunities to pitch this year. I just don’t want to put myself in a predicament where I’m relying on a couple of guys. We’re going to do it by committee this year with those six or seven guys.”

One strength the coach is looking to this year is scoring. He said the team has worked on improving that aspect of the game during the offseason. The Lions struggled offensively a year ago. In the games they lost, they were usually held to four runs or less minus an 11-9 loss to Williamsburg.

As far as leadership, Murphy said he will have to look to the juniors and some of the young players.

“Our only senior is Josh Holland, but he hasn’t really been with us for a full season,” said the coach. “I’m actually relying on some juniors — Deon Coffman, a couple of sophomores — Cody Goodin. (Goodin) was one of our better hitters last year. I’m going to need him to step up and be a leader.

“Definitely as a freshman he was our best hitter (by) batting average, Reese Capps. He’s actually kind of taken the lead this offseason in being a leader. He leads by example. He needs to pick it up more vocally, but he does lead by example. He does everything correctly. He does everything we ask him to do.”

The Mountain Lions have put together a favorable schedule this season playing teams they beat a year ago nine times. Pineville will play eight out-of-state teams this year as well.

Pineville will open the season on the road Monday at 5:30 p.m. against Jellico, Tennessee.

Reach Anthony Cloud at 606-302-9090 or on Twitter @AnthonyCloudMDN