Meridian Star

Sports

February 18, 2014

Tigers counting on experienced pitching staff

MERIDIAN —     The best thing about inexperience, is that a year later it transforms into experience.

    That is exactly what veteran Southeast Lauderdale High School head coach Shay Cooper is counting on this season as his Tigers look to take the field in search of their fourth consecutive division title.

    "We hope one of the keys is going to be our older pitching staff," Cooper said "We had the same guys last year, but they had no starting experience."

    Looking to get most of the work on the mound for the Tigers, who posted a 20-plus win season last year, are Nathan Ross, Gage Hagan, Jake Miller and Jake Smith. "Those senior pitchers will give us something to build around."

    Cooper, who is entering his ninth season as head coach of the Tigers, will be looking for a lot of offensive firepower out of senior catcher Mason Irby.

    "He is a great hitter," Cooper said of Irby, who has already signed to play for Jones County Junior College next season. "He has got some power, but he is a smart hitter and hits for a high average."

    Irby will likely hit in the third spot in the order for the Tigers. Another player Cooper is looking for some prime offensive production out of is Hagan, who will play center field when he is not pitching.

    "He is a good high school hitter and he has a strong arm and runs well," Cooper said.

    Junior Zack Sciple started at second base as a freshman for Southeast Lauderdale two years ago when the Tigers won the MHSAA Class 3A State Championship, but this year will be counted to help anchor the other side of the infield.

    "We graduated the left side of the infield and that's the biggest question we have to answer," Cooper said. "We are moving Zack to shortstop. There is no doubt that glove-wise he will do fine over there."

    The Tigers open the season on the weekend of Feb. 28 and March 1 when they host the Lauderdale County Tournament, which will be played in a classic format.

    The action begins on Friday at 5 p.m. with Southeast Lauderdale hosting Clarkdale, while Northeast Lauderdale and West Lauderdale face off at 7:30 p.m. On Saturday the Tigers take on West Lauderdale at 1 p.m., while Northeast Lauderdale and Clarkdale play at 3:30 p.m.

    The next week the Tigers pay a visit to Meridian High School on March 4 and then host the Wildcats on March 7. Both varsity games are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m.

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