Pictured: Independence pitcher Robert Hassell
By CHIP CIRILLO
While the Spring Hill Raiders enter 2018 with an inexperienced roster, head coach Paul Lamm is nothing short of optimistic for his team’s potential.
The Raiders return to the diamond after closing last season with a 36-6 record and a fourth-place finish in the Class AA tournament. Their 36 wins were the most in program history.
With their strong pitching and senior leadership, Spring Hill is poised to make another deep run in the postseason.
“We return some quality arms on the mound that logged a good amount of varsity innings last season,” said Lamm, who entered this season with a 301-112 overall record.
“Our seniors are a good group. If our young guys will follow that lead we can be successful.”
Seniors Colton Teal (7-2, 41 strikeouts, 2.31 ERA) and Hayden Scudder (4-0, 26 strikeouts, 2.55 ERA) and junior Cam Kennedy (5-0, 60 strikeouts, 1.06 ERA) are the team’s top returning pitchers.
Senior infielder/pitcher Matt Joslin (.370 batting average, 32 RBI) and senior catcher Nathan Massey are some of the team’s top returners at the plate and on defense.
Senior second baseman Kirby Krivsky (.310 BA, 16 runs), senior first baseman Wyatt Traffanstedt, junior outfielder Curt McDonald and sophomore outfielder/pitcher Elijah Williams are also expected to make an impact.
“Overall, we are very young,” Lamm said. The talent is there, we’re just inexperienced. Following such a talented class like the one that just graduated is always tough, but once we find what pieces go where we will be alright.”
Summit hopes to make another deep run after finishing one win short of the state tournament last season.
The Spartans lost to Beech 7-1 in a Class AAA Sectional after sweeping the Region 5-AAA and District 11-AAA titles with shutout victories.
Summit made it to state the previous year.
Junior pitcher Chris McElvain, a Vanderbilt commit, will lead the way.
LSU, Clemson and Tennessee have shown interest in Spartans sophomore pitcher Blake Money.
“We expect 11-AAA to be another competitive season,” Summit coach Chad Kirby said. “Each night throughout the season there will be several D-I caliber players on both teams.”
Kirby is 132-80 in seven seasons at Summit.
Other top returnees include Trevecca signee Davis Jackson (pitcher-shortstop), outfielder Reid Petersen and outfielder Nick Johnson.
Pitching figures to be the main strength for the Spartans, who went 25-12 in 2017.
Independence returns eight starters from last year’s 28-9 team that saw its season end with a 12-0 loss to Summit in the District 11-AAA championship.
Pitcher Robert Hassel, a Vanderbilt commit, is the main headliner after going 5-1 with a 1.30 ERA and 67 strikeouts last year. The outfielder also hit .407 with 29 RBI.
“It can be another good year if the team stays focused and does the little things to win,” said coach Mike McLaury, who went 66-67 in his first four seasons at Independence.
Other top returnees include third baseman Caleb Reed (.302, 18 RBI), center fielder Dillan Saunders (.371, 23 stolen bases), shortstop Sam Molnar (.295, 21 RBI), second baseman Shawn Wallwork (.455, 28 RBI), first baseman Noah Haynie (.309, 18 RBI), pitcher Chayton Gray (2.20 ERA), pitcher Taylor Massey (2.05 ERA, 7 saves), pitcher Ethan Small (5-2, 2.10 ERA) and catcher Beaux Escobar (18 RBI).
Sophomore outfielder Brian Pierce is likely to be one of the top newcomers. Pitching depth is a concern.