Cougar Baseball and Softball Roundup

Thursday, March 27, 2014

After an extended basketball season the RHS Cougars turned their attention to spring sports in the past two weeks, hitting the diamond for both softball and baseball action.

Experience is a key component in the makeup of the Lady Cougar softball team. Head coach Lewis Earnest has eight seniors on his squad, representing a talented group which has been integral to the program's success in recent years.

"I would say experience and senior leadership is definitely one of our strong suits," Earnest said. "These eight are coming back with a lot of experience. The reason you always hear people talk about experience is because it's always nice to have that."

If there's one position where youth has the upper hand, it's catcher. Talented catcher Anna Blackshare will be unable to play this season due to knee injuries suffered during basketball. This has left the position open, with freshman Emma Hobbs and sophomore Tori Hill embroiled in a battle to handle duties behind the plate. Brittany Fair moves to first base, having played outfield previously. Lindsey Ford returns at second base, where she has been a top performer for the squad. Kendal Gunn is back at shortstop, creating one of the top middle combos in 2A-3. Lenae Haley is solid at third base. Seniors Courtney Shepard, Johnna Lopez and Cheyenne Ellis are joined by sophomore Colby Lynch in the outfield. Lopez and Lynch will handle the bulk of the pitching duties for the Lady Cougars, and will alternate in the outfield, as well.

Along with the familiarity in the field, the returning players also have a history of performing at the plate.

"Our entire lineup can hit the ball," Earnest said. "We've got some pretty good hitters on this team."

Meanwhile, the Rector Cougars baseball team has a solid corps of returning players bolstered by a key group of talented newcomers.

"We've got a good group of guys who have been here before," head coach Nate Henderson said. "There aren't a lot of surprises there. We also have some younger guys who have a ton of potential, and could easily find their way into the lineup if they continue to improve and work hard."

Henderson has six pitchers on the club, a step up from the numbers in years past.

"We've got six guys that can all work some innings on the mound. I'm hoping a few of these guys will step up and separate from the herd a little."

Seniors Alec Scott and Josh Loveless lead the bullpen, with junior Nick Hardin also having proven to be a solid hurler over the past few seasons. Sophomores Brian Hufty, Lawson Ford and Garrett Buck will also see time on the hump, having impressed with their efforts in the offseason.

As is necessity in high school baseball, the aforementioned pitchers will also be manning other positions for the Cougars. The starting defensive lineup for Rector includes Adam Dinkins at shortstop; Loveless at first base and designate hitter; Scott in the outfield; Hardin at first base and in the outfield; Blane Murray at designated hitter and in the outfield; Sam Westbrook at catcher; Ford at second base; Buck at third base and Case Watson. Bryce Westbrook, Huston Highfill, Austin Clairday and Easton Tracy will have opportunities to play their way into the starting lineup, as well.

Henderson said he feels performances at the plate will be a strength for his club.

"We've got guys who can hit the ball throughout the lineup. When it comes right down to it, you've got to be able to put the ball into play. This group should be one of the better hitting groups we've had. We're looking for consistency, not necessarily power. We've got good overall speed, and look to take advantage of what the other teams give us."

Rector is enjoying spring break early this week, but will return to the diamond Friday. The Cougars are set to visit Corning beginning at 4 p.m. Friday with the new junior high team taking the field after the varsity contest. Both Cougar squads will be in action beginning at 4 p.m. Monday at Rector, facing Cross County.

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