David Lipscomb hopes the sunny weather its baseball team enjoyed in Florida last week portended a bright future for the remainder of its season.
The defending Class AA state champions were decimated by graduation losses, including eight senior starters off a team that was 26-9. Coach Ernie Smith may be sending out the youngest lineup in his 34 seasons as Mustang coach for the 2012 season.
“We’re starting five freshman, and I can’t remember the last time our team ever has done that,” Smith said Sunday, upon returning from Florida where his team went 1-2.
His Mustangs are 3-2 overall, going into a home game Tuesday vs. New Albany (Ind.).
It’s a far cry from the veteran unit his team put on the field last year. That team included his son Keith, a pitcher/third baseman/outfielder (who went 11-2) and most valuable player of the state tournament as well as .350 hitting star, centerfielder Pete Trollinger. Both signed with Freed-Hardeman.
“At this point in the season, we’re certainly not to state championship level, but we have a lot of guys who are improving daily,” Smith, who last year was named National Federation of State High School Association coach of the year, said.
After a 1-1 start, Lipscomb traveled to the Sunshine State over spring break and won its opener 7-2 over Holy Trinity Episcopal in Melbourne, Fla. The Mustangs then lost to Lake Highland Prep 10-2 and The First Academy 11-3, both in Orlando, Fla.
“We got to play against some really good teams, the weather was in the mid-80s, and it was good to get outside and get some games in,” Smith, whose Lipscomb teams have won seven state crowns, said.
His top returnee on a team with no seniors is junior John Bolton, a pitcher/first baseman/outfielder. He has accounted for two of the three wins.
“[Bolton] has certainly had to shoulder a good bit of the load, and he’s off to really good start,” Smith said. “We’re definitely counting on him.”
Smith said that other players off to good starts are infielder Carson Chaffin and infielder Alex Miller, both juniors, who are also splitting time as designated hitters. Smith added that junior centerfielder Brion DeLap has been hitting the ball well, which included belting a home run last week.
It’s far cry from last year.
“It’s certainly a different feel this year,” Smith said. “With no seniors, we’re counting on juniors to be leaders. I really like how our young guys are coming along.”
After the New Albany game, Lipscomb visits Hume-Fogg at Rose Park in its district opener Thursday afternoon.
• Rutledge resigns: Jeff Rutledge has resigned as head football coach at Pope JPII after two seasons, stating his desire to be with his wife Laura who is living in Arizona.
Prior to taking the JPII job, Rutledge was quarterbacks coach of the NFL Arizona Cardinals.
Rutledge’s teams were 4-18 at JPII. Prior to taking the JPII and Arizona jobs, he was head coach at Montgomery Bell Academy for seven seasons. He won two DII state titles (2002 and 2003) in his first two seasons there.
• Ezell in Waverly tournament: Ezell-Harding, which has won 12 state softball titles under coach Don Freudenthal, will compete in the Waverly Invitational tournament on Friday and Saturday.