ELIZABETHTOWN — If East Bladen coach Russell Priest can point to any one area where he feels sure the Eagles are better than they were in 2015, it’s experience.
“We were young last season, and it showed in a lot of areas,” he said. “But we’re a little more experienced this year.”
East Bladen finished 10-13 overall and 6-8 in the Four County Conference, and the Eagles lost only a few players from that team — including shortstop/pitcher Matt Massengill, second-baseman Colby Hester, center-fielder Hastin McGill and utility player Joe Strait.
“They were good players for us,” Priest said.
But he added that this year’s roster is expected to be deeper and have more of an impact with the returning players and a couple moving up.
On the mound, senior Alex Coates will be the ace of the Eagles’ staff and Priest will also have sophomores Sincere Smith and Xavier Wooten getting starts.
Junior catcher Kyle Tatum will handle the pitching staff again, sophomore Brooks McGill will replace his brother in center and senior Ty McMillian will start in left field. When they’re not pitching, Smith will start at shortstop and Wooten will patrol right field.
Rounding out the roster will be: sophomores Quinton Bedsole, Tanner Meares, Deon’Dre Newkirk, Devon Stocks and Tyler Watkins; juniors Tanner Clark, Nick Collins and Michael Walter; and seniors Derwood Clark and Nikita Owens.
Priest said the conference looks to be similar to recent seasons, with Midway the team to beat and schools like Clinton, West Bladen and Heidi Trask in the next tier.
“I think we’ll be competitive with everyone this season,” he added. “Our pitching should be better and the defense should be at least as good. We’ll just have to hit the ball.”
East Bladen opens conference play at 7 p.m. on Tuesday at Midway.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.