The implementation of a new coach in any sport can often end with negative results, as was the case last year for East Jessamine’s high school baseball team.
Those negatives resulted in the Jaguars taking their fair share of bumps. However, those bumps at the same time can have positives dawn upon them.
East head coach Kevin Clary said with the Jaguars returning a majority of the starters, he expects “to see remarkable improvement over last year.”
“It’s been a lot easier this pre-season, especially when we can’t get outside much,” Clary said. “They know my system now. Last year was my first year there, at East, and I’m not having to do nearly as much teaching of the game as I did last year.”
With the meet and greet not an issue this year, the Jaguars have been able to begin the process of teaching for advanced elements of the game, according to Clary.
When the Jaguars take the field for their first game Monday against Montgomery County, they will do so with nine seniors in the dugout after losing only one to graduation.
Clary said he is emphasizing defense entering the 2013 season after leaving 2012 behind with its 13-24 record, correspondent to the Jags 208 allowed runs.
“We got to catch the baseball,” Clary said. “With our schedule last year, we only played five teams that weren’t in the top-20 in the state, and we’re going to play a demanding schedule again.”
According to Clary, “10 or 11 games” were lost because the Jaguars simply didn’t catch the baseball, which has led to the team placing a lot of focus on infield play during the preseason.
The biggest contribution to better defense can come in the form of pitching. Heading the Jags’ four-man pitching rotation is senior Forrest Baldwin, who¿Clary added will also play some shortstop and outfield.
Baldwin tossed a no-hitter last season in a Jaguars win over Fleming County.
“He’s been playing for East since he was an eighth-grader ... He’s one of our leaders,” Clary said.
The rotation will be aided by juniors Sam Hall, who also plays shortstop, Conner Lindsay, also an infielder, and Tates Creek transfer John Hisel.
“With different pitching combinations, we have holes to fill,” Clary said. “Some of our best pitchers are also some of our best position players.”
Catching for the Jaguars is another junior, Stephen Treadway. Clary noted Treadway’s ability to catch and throw for the Jaguars, as he will be heavily relied on for helping improve East’s defense in 2013.
“I think he’s a real prospect,” Clary said.
In having so much veteran status, Clary said he expects signficant contributions from senior catcher/first baseman Jacob Overstreet and senior second baseman Jarryd Settles.
The Jaguars also added another senior in Lexington Christian Academy transfer pitcher Brandt Redmon.
Even with so much leadership, Clary said his up and comers, such as sophomore infielder Barron Blackford, freshman catcher Lain Hager, and junior outfielder Billy Russell, will see time to further develop their skills.
“The first two or three weeks, since they haven’t been able to get outside, is going to be like spring training, so we won’t be able to settle into the linup,” he said.
Much of that time Clary said he plans to try different combinations, different players, and “it’s going to determine who plays a lot.”
Although they’ve had their bumps, Clary and his team’s focus remains on improving themselves, and not concerning themselves with how they compare to the likes of West Jessamine or Danville, the 12th Region’s leaders last season.
“We don’t mold ourself after anyone else but us,” Clary said. “We want to build our own program.”