Eastern Greene baseball ready for high expectations

Wednesday, March 20, 2024
Junior Peyton Lewis is one of nine juniors for the Eastern Greene baseball team.
File photo.

With 13 upperclassmen on their roster, Eastern Greene baseball is walking into the season with high expectations.

With nine of the 13 upperclassmen juniors, Head Coach CJ Shelton said the team knows the time is now to buckle down.

“We know what we’re capable of,” Shelton, a second-year head coach, said. “The kids show up for hard work and they want to get better.”

After a 11-14 year, their first year with 10 or more wins since 2013-14, Shelton said Eastern Greene baseball is looking to continue to rise.

The T-Birds graduated three seniors last year in Luke Abram, Jeremy Patton and Braxton Deckard.

“Abram was a top five hitter for us, Braxton was big pitching for us and Patton was our fourth outfielder,” Shelton said.

This year, the T-Birds have four seniors in Jonas Hawk, Ty McKnight, Rylin Patton and Jarrett Inman.

Inman reclassified as he will be graduating early.

“Jonas and Ty are two of our outfielders,” Shelton said. “Everything fell in place for Jonas last year. Ty will be doing some pitching for us, he’s gotten better at hitting. He’s fast and he knows what we need him to do. Rylin is one of our most consistent players. Jarret will be our fourth outfielder, he’s a good pitcher. He’s a guy who works outside of practice.”

The junior class, which Shelton called a breath of fresh air when they came into the program as freshmen, includes Will Inman, Kasen Cullison, Peyton Lewis, Jack Rees, Gavin Whitfield, Jacob Bellman, Clayton Liles, Jason Koontz and Dale Jones.

“My big thing is communication,” Shelton said. “I’m a 27-year old head coach. I try to make practices different, getting consistent quick reps. I want to make the program better, so teams around us know that this team can be a significant threat.”

Will Inman, who was an All-SWIAC player last year, will be a significant pitcher for the T-Birds.

“Will is always consistent,” Shelton said. “He gets better throughout the year, what we’ve challenged him this year is for a better average and stats. Gavin progressed at the end of the year. He’s a pitcher with grit. He’s a lot more vocal this year. Kasen, like a lot of the juniors, was thrown in the ringer his freshman year. His nerves never get to him, he’s a great leadoff. He gets on base, his OPS is higher than the rest of the team. Peyton has played a lot of positions, we can toss him around. We need a bat like his in the lineup, he can get 10-12 home runs.”

One thing helping the team is a new pitching machine that the program purchased.

“Peyton is a lot better, he’s been working with the pitching machine and working on the curve ball,” Shelton said. “He’ll be a significant pitcher for our top five, he was our biggest RBI guy last year, he’s a well rounded player.”

Shelton said Bellman will be a “super utility player for us.”

“He’ll be catching, he hits well, he pitched really well last year,” Shelton said. “He’s important for us, he was our ace up our sleeve last year.

The main catcher for the team will be Rees.

“He’s a competitor,” Shelton said. “He’s one of the best catchers in the county. He gets a lot of praise from opposing coaches. He knows his baseball, he’s a vocal strong kid.”

Jones will be a designated hitter for the team, while Liles and Koontz will provide quality pitching.

“We don’t want to over pitch the kids,” Shelton said of his pitching depth. “We want to make sure to keep arms healthy.”

Sophomores include Andrew Shaw, Wyatt Craig, Aiden Jones, Kasch Collison and Cole Hayes, while freshmen Landon Norris, Nick Richey, Chaz Perry, Mason Hall and Trevor Stogsdill round out the roster.

Shelton was a part of the last Eastern Greene baseball team to win a sectional, back in 2013 under Trevor McConnell, who now coaches at Barr-Reeve.

“We were heavy on seniors that year,” Shelton said. “Just like now, we were heavy on upperclassmen, and we have big expectations. We’re branching out to more competitive teams, we want to take either a conference or a sectional.”

The T-Birds take on Linton in Eastern Greene’s home opener, on Saturday, April 6, which Shelton said will be a measuring stick.

“Last year we started off good against them, then it went downhill,” Shelton said. “I want to see the guys engaged through seven innings. I like to play a deep bench, so I want to see the focus throughout the game, knowing the importance of every hit and every pitch.”

The T-Birds start the year at Loogootee on Saturday, March 30 for the Loogootee Round Robin.

“The pitching machine was big for us, it’s helping a lot more for the players to see a consistent speed,” Shelton said. “I can see the progression. We want to compete in our conference, the conference is one of the most stacked in Southern Indiana. We have consistent Regional appearances from the conference. Our kids want pictures on the wall holding a trophy. I have memories from that Sectional win, those are memories I’ll never forget and I want them to have those. I know this school is capable of that. (Previous head coach) Wesley Arthur projected that this groups’ junior year would be a big year. They’ve progressively gotten better, they’re showing improvement. It doesn’t matter the record, we want to have significant games in our conference and Sectional.”

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