Photo courtesy of Cari Dean.
Sam Towery is part of a big junior class expected to be a big part of the Hornets’ success in 2017.
Michael Stallings said he is excited about the prospects of the 2017 season for the Chelsea High School baseball team.
Coming off a season that, admittedly, did not go as well as hoped, the Hornets have burned through the offseason on a mission.
“We’ve got a very talented group coming back, a high energy group,” Stallings said. “We had a good summer, and we’re looking to build on that coming into the season.”
With a bevy of seniors on the 2016 team, expectations were high, but the team fell short of expectations. This year’s team is made up differently, with the majority of the contributions expected to come from the junior class.
“We’ve got four great seniors, guys that are really going to contribute and help us, and we’ve got a really strong junior class who we’re going to lean on heavily,” Stallings said.
Among those four seniors, three will log innings on the pitching mound, in Connor Burnett, Tristan Sulser and Josh Gregg. The other is Jacob Burback, who is now in his third year on the varsity team.
Then there is that large junior class, many of whom got varsity experience as sophomores last year. Riley Watkins started at first base for the Hornets and hit in the middle of the lineup last season, and he is expected to do the same this season. William Root played every game last season in right field and will take on a significant role again.
Brendon Case is making the transition to outfield this spring, as he was an infielder last year. Case already is committed to South Alabama, and he will also see some time on the mound this season.
“He’s a great athlete, so I think he’ll do fine,” Stallings said. “He’s got the potential to hit in the top of our order, and he’s got great speed.”
Sam Towery could be one of Chelsea’s top pitchers this spring, along with playing in the infield. Evan Mealins has earned playing time at catcher in the past.
“We are really leaning heavy on our juniors,” Stallings said. “Our area’s going to be tough. It’ll be interesting to see how it all pans out. We’re ready to get out there and compete.”
Class 6A, Area 8 includes Pelham and Helena, two teams that have always put competitive products on the field.
Outside of that junior class, Nolan Forehand was called up to the varsity team after spring break last season and played quality innings on the infield as a freshman.
“He’s got really good hands and good footwork. You’re going to be hearing about him,” Stallings said.
Looking at the overall makeup of this season’s rosters, the Hornets have high hopes for what could be a successful season.
“We’ve got more pitching depth than we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Stallings said. “We’re going to pitch it well.”
Stallings said he also has seen an improvement in the team’s overall offensive game, something that he hopes to see the benefit of once the season begins. Defensively, he hopes to see his team improve from last year.
“I think we’re going to be able to defend, and that’s going to be the big key,” he said.
Ready to make things right in 2017, the Hornets have been itching to get back on the field and reach their goals. The offseason work has been put in. The season brings the opportunity to make it happen on the field.
“This group has put in a lot of work in the offseason, and I’m ready to see that pay off,” Stallings said. “I’m ready to see how that translates into season play.”