|2009 COVINGTON BUCCANEERS...
Baseball is the thing to do as the Covington Buccaneers continue to see significant numbers on the diamond, which leads to another season of optimism.
Looking out on the baseball field during practice, Covington coach Mitch Hirsch couldn't hide his excitement for yet another year of Buccaneer baseball.
That's because there are 25 kids in uniform, all capable of accomplishing some great things this season and in the years to come.
"Our numbers are great," said Hirsch. "The last four or five years we've been up around 25 kids. Would we like to have 30? Yes! But the first year we didn't even have enough kids for a JV team, so I'm not complaining."
With the number of kids on the roster who are hungry to earn a varsity spot, Hirsch loves the competition he sees in every practice.
"It (having numbers) pushes everyone, even the seniors," Hirsch explained. "Because they know that if they slack off another kid is waiting to step in. The competition is good."
Covington lost a talented senior class from a year ago, plus saw the high school career of Darrell Thobe end to an off-season arm injury. Thobe, a senior, would have been one of the top pitchers in the rotation.
"It's a shame we lost Darrell," Hirsch said. "He's a great kid who worked very hard at baseball. I'm just glad he's able to do something this spring (running track)."
But Covington is deep with pitchers with seniors Andy Sparks, Nate Lavey and Kyle Kanet leading the charge. Throw in junior Adam Craft, sophomore Jake Bitner and freshman Brandon Powell, the Buccaneers have several options on the mound.
"We have seven or eight guys who can pitch," Hirsch said. "We're still looking at who will be ready when the season starts, but we have a lot of guys who are in the mix. Right now I feel comfortable with Andy (Sparks), Kyle (Kanet) and Nate (Lavey). Brandon (Powell) has good control, but not a lot of velocity yet. Adam (Craft) hasn't pitched much because we haven't had another catcher and Jake (Bitner) has given us some good innings in the past. Plus we have some JV guys who may not be ready for the varsity level right now, but could be ready later in the season."
Covington's strength this season will be hitting, however.
"Offense, that will be our strength," said Hirsch. "We've got some kids who can hit with power, but we're looking to hit for average this year. There's not too many week spots in our lineup."
Another strength for the Buccs will be defense, especially up the middle.
"We're as strong as I can remember up the middle with Nate (Lavey), Kyle (Kanet), Logan (Woloch) and our catcher (Adam Craft)," Hirsch said. "Those guys all have played a lot of varsity baseball and play their positions well."
If hitting or defense isn't Covington's greatest strength in 2009, it has to be team speed. Hirsch feels this is the fastest team he's had, which is saying a lot considering Covington has had the likes of Gene Studebaker go through the program in recent years.
"I do think this is the fastest team I've had," he said. "You look at Cookie (Chris Long), Nate (Lavey), Logan (Woloch), Tyler (Rench), Adam (Craft), Andy (Sparks) and Jake (Bitner), those are some fast kids. We'll definitely take advantage of our speed.
Hirsch and his coaching staff that consists of Heath Francis and Jeremy Yingst will also take advantage of a talented roster of young players that will be playing junior varsity ball.
"Our JV team should be pretty good," said Hirsch. "We've got eight freshman who came out and they are a great group of kids. You combine them with the sophomore class we have, we've got a pretty strong group. I'm excited to see these kids develop."
The development of the youngsters will be easier than in normal situations as all the kids are coachable and eager to learn.
"I'll tell you this, they work very hard," said Hirsch of the younger kids. "They all come to practice in the right frame of mind - ready to learn and willing to do anything you tell them. Those kids are getting better and better every day because they understand what it means to listen and work hard. I can't be more pleased with this group of kids."
Which is why Hirsch couldn't hide his excitement - even if he tried.