Meridian Star

Sports

March 4, 2014

Aggressive 'Cats looking to make playoffs in 2014

MERIDIAN —     Second-year Meridian High School head baseball coach Robert Cole likes what he sees from his Wildcats heading into the 2014 season.

    "We have nine guys who can really hit the baseball, plus a couple other guys who can come off the bench and give us some depth," said Cole, who played several years in the minor leagues after graduating from Ole Miss in the 1980s. "I don't know about how many home runs we will hit, but we should be a gap-to-gap team. I think our strongest point this year is going to be our offense."

    Among those Cole, who was an assistant at MHS for 11 years before finally landing the head coaching position, is counting on this year are seniors Aaron Garrett, Jared Scott and Gage Nettles; juniors Jacoby Cole, J'Mar Smith and Jamal Horn; and sophomore Tray Warren.

    He is looking for Warren to handle things defensively for MHS at shortstop, while also hitting near the top of the order, possibly in the lead-off spot. Smith is another player who will give the 'Cats some speed on the bases.

    While the hitting is obviously important, Cole said a change in attitude has been the biggest difference between this year's team and the one that went 6-16 last season and missed out on the playoffs by one game.

    "Last year we were a young team that made a lot of mistakes," he said. "We just couldn't get it going. This year they have a lot better attitude and are better disciplined. They are being very aggressive and are ready to play.

    "We lost a lot of games by one run last year," Cole said. "We would be in the game, but then have one bad inning and just let it get to us."

    Cole said he was concerned about his team's defense, but expected it to be an improvement over last year. "My biggest thing is how they adapt once they make a mistake," he said. "We just need to get over it and get ready for the next play."

    He is looking for several pitchers to get plenty of time on the mound, but Cole said going into the season Scott would be the ace of the staff.

    "He is the leader," Cole said. "He kept us in a lot of games last year. He is a finesse guy. Jared knows how to pitch and what he can get over for strikes."

    Scott is also expected to see a lot of duty behind the plate, while Smith will catch and pitch with most of his time being in center field.

    The Wildcats were set to open the season against Lake and Newton County High School in the Newton County Classic on Saturday. On Thursday MHS will host Southeast Lauderdale for a 6:30 p.m. varsity game at Q.V. Sykes Field, before traveling to SEL for a re-match with the Tigers  on Friday, March 7

    MHS will be playing in the same Class 6A region as powerhouses Oak Grove, Petal and Brandon.

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