West Jessamine notched a 6-2 win over Dublin Coffman (Ohio) on Tuesday night to start its season. The Colts were led by Tyler Ward and Michael Oaks, who each drove in a pair of runs. On the hill, Zach Settle, Josh Carroll and Ward put together a seven-strikeout, five-hit performance.
“I was really pleased with our pitching today ... I thought (Settle) did very well; I though Josh (Carroll) did very well coming off shoulder problems in the fall,” Hamilton said. Ward is also coming off shoulder problems in the fall. “If we can get those two guys (Carroll and Ward) going well, like they did tonight, then I think we can be pretty good.”
After giving up a run in the top of the first inning, West came back and scored two in the bottom half.
Dalton James led off the frame with a walk, and Tyler Adams followed with a bunt single to put two runners on. Ward singled to center field to drive in James and tie the game 1-1. A groundout by Christian Beckley later in the inning allowed Adams to score and gave West a 2-1 lead.
Settle shut down the Shamrocks in the second and third, and West pushed its lead to three with two more runs in the bottom of the third inning. Adams drew a leadoff walk, and Ward followed with a single to center field to put runners on the corners. Oaks dropped a Texas-leaguer into right field to drive in both runners and make it 4-1 Colts.
“We swung the bat pretty well. We’re looking for productive at bats and that’s what we got quite a bit of tonight,” Hamilton said. West shook it up throughout the night, laying down a couple bunts to move runners over and for hits. “I like what we’re doing. We’re trying to move runners; we’re trying to help each other out, and that’s a big plus,” Hamilton said.
Carroll took the mound in the top of the fourth and after giving up a leadoff single sat down the next three batters. He cruised through the fifth inning as well and was helped by two more runs from the Colts’ offense. Ward drove in a run on a sacrifice fly to center field in the fourth inning, and Troy Merida drove in a run on a groundout in the fifth.
Ward, who is the designated hitter, took the mound in the sixth inning. He got through the sixth with ease but ran into a spot of trouble in the seventh, allowing a run to score on a couple of botched pickoff attempts.
The season ahead
West Jessamine lost four key players from last year’s team in Blake Davis, Jakson Deyer, Huston Barber and Austin Dunn. Davis was a fixture in the outfield; Dyer and Barber were big-game pitchers who helped lead West; and Dunn was the teams starting catcher.
One major help in working toward replacing last spring’s seniors has been the weather. With so many warm days, West has been able to get in more quality practices. That, coupled with another strong senior group — Josh Carroll, Dalton James, Michael Oaks, Tyler Pasch, Zach Settle and Tyler Ward — has West coach Jody Hamilton “really pleased.”
“I’m really pleased with what we’ve been getting from our seniors as far as coming ready to practice, working hard and trying to carry on what we’ve done here the last few years,” Hamilton said. The last four years have been the most successful in West baseball history as the Colts have amassed a 112-31 record (.783 winning percentage).
Even with six seniors, the Colts are young in spots. They’re going to have to learn and grow in spots as the season goes on. In Tuesday’s opener, West had two freshmen (Trey Merida in right field and Troy Merida at second base) and two sophomores (Christian Beckley at third base and Jarred Jones in left field) in the lineup. Lane Brooks, a sophomore, will also see some time in the outfield and freshman Josh Blancet will get a look at second base.
The outfield is still pretty wide open as far as who will play left and center field. Hamilton plans on working a lot of players into the spots. James will hold down center field for the third year in a row.
“(James) is having a really good spring ... he’s the only guy that I know for sure that will be starting every game out there,” Hamilton said.
At first base, West has Lexington Catholic transfer Tyler Pasch.
“He’s been a good addition to us,” Hamilton said. “This is the first time he’s played varsity baseball. He’s been a nice addition.” Pasch went 1-for-3 with a single and a steal on Tuesday night. Jake Purkins, a sophomore, will back him up.
Oaks has taken over catching duties, and Daulton Peters will also do some catching.
West will rely on the arms of Carroll, Settle and Ward. Hamilton got a look at three pitchers in Tuesday night’s opener like he had planned and was happy with what he saw out of each of them.
“If they can get on track, (we’ll be OK). We’re going to catch it and throw it (on defense). We’re going to be fine defensively,” Hamilton said. “If we can only throw the ball over the plate, we’ll be really good.”
Matt Yeich, Dakota Greer, Jones and Peters will also see some innings on the hill.
Adams has emerged as a leader for the Colts this season. He’s carried on the tradition the program has been building the last few years, Hamilton said.
“He is a tremendous defensive player. He runs well, he throws well. He’s got to be one of the top shortstops in his class in the state,” Hamilton said. As a sophomore in 2011, Adams made only four errors all season.
Settle has also done a good job at being a senior leader.
“The seniors have kind of picked up like I said. It’s their year, and they want to establish their own identity,” Hamilton said. Last year’s senior group won more games than any group in school history, and this year’s senior group wants to continue that trend and become the new win leaders.
West has a tough schedule this season. This weekend, the Colts compete in the Nelson County Leadoff Bash; during spring break next month, they play in the Vero Beach Invitational in Florida; in mid-April, West hosts the Royse Memorial; and in late April, West will face the top teams in the state at the Louisville Invitational Tournament.