The 2016 season didn’t go according to plan for Pineville. In his debut year as the head coach, Chris Murphy’s squad was able to garner only five wins with four coming in the second half of the season.
A 1-0 victory over Red Bird in the fourth game of the year kept the Mountain Lions from starting the season 0-16. As the season progressed, Pineville showed life with a 16-0 win over Jellico, Tennessee.
The Mountain Lions finished the year with wins over Oneida Baptist Institute, Lynn Camp and South Floyd before being eliminated in the first round of the 51st District tournament.
Murphy said that he expects more out of his team this year with some experienced athletes returning.
“Last season, we were really just kind of teaching the guys how to play baseball — working on fundamental stuff,” said the second-year coach. “We knew we had a big hill to climb last year, and we improved a lot. This year, we expect to compete.”
“We got a schedule put together where I feel like night in night out we can compete with anybody we’re playing. We expect to win more. We got a lot of experience back this season. (We’re) definitely looking for a more productive season when it comes to the win-loss column, more competitive, and I’m excited about it.”
Pineville returns three seniors to the team in Will Adams, Tucker Woolum and Nike Mason.
“I expect them to lead,” said Murphy about his seniors. “Not just being vocal leaders — which they are — but leading by example. All three of them are heck of a players. They can do it all. They can field, and they can pitch. Nike and Tucker, they catch.”
“They can play infield, they can play outfield. They’re all three utility guys that I can put anywhere to plug in and fill in some holes. They’re just great kids. They’ve went from football to basketball, and now this is their last sport they’re going to get to play as a Pineville Mountain Lion.”
One key factor in the team’s success is depth.
Juniors Josh Holland and Stephen Redecker saw plenty of playing time last year and will contribute immediately. Murphy said there are also some talented underclassmen that will help the Mountain Lions.
“That’s one thing that limited us last year. We just weren’t very deep,” said Murphy. “We only had about eight or nine guys. We had no competition. Guys kind of knew that they had their spot pretty much locked up, and there was nothing you could do about it because we were limited with numbers.”
“This year, we’ve got 18 guys on our team. We’re knee deep at every position. We are having some real competitive practices especially with all these newcomers. It’s just a lot more competitive. Guys are held a lot more accountable.”
Pineville will open the 2017 season at 6:30 p.m. on Monday with a trip to Claiborne, Tennessee.
Reach Anthony Cloud at 606-302-9090 or on Twitter @AnthonyCloudMDN