Auburn High School finished 17-7 last season and looks to be the hunted and not the hunter this spring on the diamond.
The Eagles return 12 players from last year and are optimistic they can make a run deeper into the state playoffs.
Eric Altizer is in his second stint at the Riner school having coached from 1999-2008 and then returning last year. He did lose first team all-state 1A outfielder Lucas Kenley, but the cupboard is not empty.
He returns: all 1A West Regional players in shortstop Adam Quesenberry and catcher Kyle Altizer who was Conference 45 Player of the Year and second team all-state. Keith Reed is also back after posting a 10-1 mark on the hill as a freshman.
Altizer is looking to the mountain and expects to be competing for a championship.
“We have 12 returning players from last season and we will need contributions from all 12 to be successful,” he said. “Parry McCluer and Radford should be good in conference play this year.”
Christiansburg also took a major step last year, making the state playoffs and finishing with a 17-4 record. Dale Nelson is in his fourth year at the school where he has compiled a 31-3 record. He did lose seven seniors from that squad, including all-around performer Ashton King, but he returns a lot of talent.
“This is a team that has a lot of our pitching back from last year which should be a plus. A lot of experienced seniors will headline this team, and I am very excited for the opportunity for our deep and talented junior class. I believe this is our deepest team we have had in my three years here,” Nelson said.
The Blue Demons have a very strong nucleus of players that should produce double-figure wins this season. Those players include: SS-Nick Meadows, 3B-P Alex Perkins, IF-P Will Stout, OF-Alex Hylton, OF- Sean Ferrell, IF John Tuck and IF-P Corbin Vaught.
“Everyone has a chance to standout for us, one through nine. I believe we can put together a solid lineup that can get the job done. Pitching should be strong with a lot of depth and options to choose from. No one individual will carry us this year. It’s going to have to continue to be team success,” Nelson said.
The coach said baseball should be very competitive in conference play this year. He sees Abingdon, Cave Spring, Hidden Valley, Blacksburg and Patrick County as tough opponents.
“As most know, this is a very tough conference. Everyone is solid across the board,” Nelson concluded.
In Blacksburg, Eric Morgan will have to wait until some players from basketball get their baseball legs and ill from off-season injuries.
“We have a few injuries in some key areas, especially our starting pitching. We should be competitive, but may not get hot until all players are healthy,” he said.
Jonathan Hagee is in his first year in charge of the baseball program at Eastern Montgomery. He was the head jayvee and varsity assistant at Graham High School in Bluefield, West Virginia in 2010 and served as a volunteer assistant at Concord University in 2011 as the team won their conference and made the NCAA Division II baseball tournament.
He has also spent two seasons as the head jayvee and varsity assistant at his alma mater, Pulaski County High School, and spent the past three seasons at Blacksburg High School also as the head jayvee coach.
Hagee played all four years of high school at Pulaski County High School and played collegiately at Bluefield College.
Last year, the Mustangs finished with a 1-20 record but already have met that win total in its first week of spring. Hagee expects the team to be much improved.
“I expect us to be improved in every phase of the game. I’ve been really pleased with the way we’ve been working and preparing. I expect us to compete and to play the game with intensity and enthusiasm. I believe our guys have what it takes to be successful,” he said.
According to Hagee, Eastern Montgomery will look to the following players to change the culture of losing:
“Jake Garren (Sr.) – He adds a lot to our team, he’s one of our top pitchers, one of our top hitters, and can catch, play 1B, or 3B depending on where we need him that day. He’s also a vocal leader and a senior presence that our guys look up to. Jake is a great kid who we want to send out the right way.
Aaron Felty (Jr.) – Aaron is very talented, like Jake he is one of our top pitchers, plays SS, and hits 3rd in our lineup. Aaron is solid in every phase of the game, and does everything well. Our guys look to him to set the tone everyday whether it’s practice or a game. Aaron has been in this program a while and is another player who’d earned the right to see this program trend upward.
Landon Shaver (Fr.) – Landon is a freshman who plays the game with tremendous energy and passion. His motor is at 100 mph all the time. He leads off for us and starts at 2B, he slides over to SS when Aaron Felty pitches. He’s also slated to be our number three pitcher. He works hard every day and can cause havoc on the base paths for other teams with his speed.
Hunter Justus (So.) – Hunter is a leader for our team. He does whatever we ask him to do and does it with a smile. Hunter is a competitor, he’s taken over at 1B and done a tremendous job. He’s a bat that we’re counting on to produce in the heart of our order. He’s working hard on the mound as well, he’ll see his share of innings. He’s one of the vocal leaders on this team and does a great job of leading by example as well.”