"We don't have depth right now, but I really like what's coming up. Depth is coming back."
Poca - The Dots' late season basketball run left Coach Gene Estel a little short handed when practice began. The Dots are currently working with just 10 players, while awaiting the arrival of hoops players Cam Cottrill, Noah Frampton, Jake Payne and Matt Chandler.
Estel believes the team can improve on last season's (21-13) record once the team is at full strength.
"Right now we're down a little bit, but we expect good things once we get everyone in practice," Estel said. "We've been building the program and we think that some of the pieces are starting to come together.
"We have a really good group of kids that are willing to work hard and be a part of something special."
A junior right-hander, Payne returns to the mound after posting a 1.51 ERA in 51 innings last season. Cottrill, a junior who batted .371 last season, returns to play second base, while sophomores Frampton (.414) and Chandler return to shortstop and third base, respectively.
A trio of seniors will also contribute.
Three-year starting catcher Evan McClanahan returns, as does Ryan Leighton (P/OF) and David Taylor (1B), who missed most of the last two season with shoulder injuries.
Estel was especially pleased to have McClanahan back behind the plate.
"He's our Captain back there running the show," Estel said. "Evan does a great job back there. He runs the show and he's a great senior leader for us."
Junior pitcher Travis Covert will also see action, as will sophomores Skyler Vealey, Brenden Iezzi and Ricci Savilla.
Freshmen expected to contribute are pitchers Donte Barnett, Lucas Marshall and southpaw Brett Watts.
"We're going to just take things a game a time," Estel said. "But we want to win 20 games, win our conference and make it to Power Park and see what happens."
Sissonville - A large contingent of players greeted third-year Coach Kenny Harper as the Indians opened practice.
"I'm well pleased because we have 25 kids out, which is more than we've ever had," Harper said. "We have a big influx of freshmen (12) coming in that are baseball players. They're not just athletes, they're baseball players."
Among those players are seven pitchers that Harper called the "strength" of the team.
Seniors Zach Null and Pat Messinger return to anchor the rotation.
The Indians finished 11-15 last season, with Null notching six of those wins and striking out an area-best 90 batters in 81 1/3 innings worked.
Junior Eli Mooney (61 1/3 innings pitched) returns, as does sophomore J.R. Stricklen, who batted .358 last season.
Sophomore Dominic Walker returns behind the plate, while Houston Hill and Andy Minsker will see action in both the infield and outfield.
Freshmen pitchers Austin Burford, Ethan Lauchart, and Josh Landis will also see time on the mound.
"We have potential, but it just depends on how quickly the team comes together," Harper said. "It could happen right off the bat or it could be midway through the season. I look for us to have a real good season."