Baseball hasn’t had many constants in the past decade or so — in the majors or college scene.
But in Kentucky, there has been West Jessamine High School baseball head coach Jody Hamilton and his Colts, who aim to once against finish atop the 12th Region after posting a 32-6 record last season.
“Overall I think we’ll be very solid. We run really well as a team. We throw the ball over the plate,” Hamilton said. “Like any high school team, if we don’t throw the ball over the plate we’d struggle.”
Returning to make those pitches for the Colts is senior Matt Yeich, juniors Dakota Greer, Jarred Jones and Daulton Peters, and sophomore Trey Merida.
“Pitching wise we return 26 wins out of 32, so I feel confident in our pitching staff,” Hamilton said.
Yeich’s effort on the mount resulted in a 7-1 record at year’s end, while Greer completed his season with a 8-1 record, leading the returning starters in wins.
Hamilton said he believed the team should be pretty good on the mound given the amount of experience it returns.
“A¿lot of guys pitched against very good competition,” he said. “It’s not like they should shy away from very good teams.”
Despite returning much needed pitching experience, the Colts lost six seniors, four of which contributed to significant time on the defensive front.
“We graduated six seniors total, who every single one of them had career years,” Hamilton said. “I mean they all had the best year they’ve had since they’d been here. They’re going to be hard to replace.”
Moving into the backstop for West is junior Christian Beckley, who made his rounds last season in the field.
“We kind of settled him into catching. He’s got a real strong arm,” Hamilton said.
At first base, Hamilton said juniors Jake Purkins and Drew Ward, along with Lexington Christian Academy transfer Maxx Mahon, are vying for the spot and could see time there.
Second base will be filled by Jones, with sophomore Troy Merida at third, and senior shortstop Tyler Adams returning to complete the infield lineup.
The Colts outfield is “pretty wide open,” according to Hamilton, who has five guys looking to fill the spot to sure up his team’s defensive efforts.
“Hopefully the guys moving in ... will take the place of those (seniors),” he said. Hamilton added he hopes the team’s role players can follow along the lines of last year’s juniors in working to improve and advance to where they are now as team leaders.
“We got six guys that graduated who left a legacy on this year’s seniors and for this year’s seniors to say ‘we got to duplicate or get better from what we were last year,’ I don’t think it’s a coaching thing as much as it is a personal pride thing.”
West will rely on that pride as they open the season against two of the three teams who beat them last season in Boyle County and LCA.
“I think you’re measured by every competition that you have. Whether they’re a weaker team or a stronger team, it’s a measuring stick each time that you go out there,” Hamilton said. “Just because a team may be a little weaker than you, are you ready to play each day? In baseball, maybe more than any other sport, it’s not who you’re playing as much as the person who you’re playing against.”
Although Hamilton said he doesn’t like to “look ahead, past any game, just because you end up getting snake bit,” the Colts make their way to Vero Beach, Fla., once again to take on some top talent, including several of Kentucky’s own baseball teams. He said such games provide the opportunity to pick out the things that the team is doing wrong.
“Physically they’ve played through their mistakes,” he said, but the mental aspect is what they’re trying to keep corrected.
“I try to instill in our players that you’ve got to coach yourself when a situation may arise in the game.” Hamilton said. “It’s like playing chess. If you’re looking at the person you’re playing against across the board, you’re going to have problems because you should be looking at the chess board and seeing the plays being made against you.”
The Colts make their first move against an opponent on Monday when they travel to Boyle for a 5:30 p.m. opening pitch
“We feel like we can be a pretty good team in the end,” Hamilton said. “In replacing so many guys that had great years last year, it’s going to be a question mark at the beginning to see who steps forward. If everybody plays up to their capabilities that we feel that they can, we should be pretty good.”