Liberty County High School first-year baseball coach Joel Moody said he is looking forward to Monday’s baseball scrimmage at Bradwell Institute.
The Panther baseball team graduated nine strong seniors from last year’s squad, but Moody said he has some returning veterans and emerging talent he wants to see in action.
“The kids are really excited about it. I’m excited,” he said. “It will be a chance to evaluate ourselves against competition.”
Last season, the Panthers finished 5-15 overall and 1-9 in Region 2A-AAAA.
The coach thinks they have the talent to end on a better region mark this season with several upperclassmen and sophomores slated to make the final varsity roster.
Incoming senior Antonio Smith will start as a short stop, Moody said, and could spend some time catching and pitching. Junior Deshaun Collins will be the second baseman and, according to the coach, has been hitting well at practice. Curtis Michalowicz is a returning sophomore slated to pitch and play third base.
Moody said he is using his older, seasoned players to help mentor the younger kids each day at practice. He has coordinated a few inter-league scrimmages to see where players are stronger and where they need work as he looks to finalize all the positions.
“It is a daily thing as far as evaluating positions, more so because we have so much young talent,” he said. “From day to day I might put up a mock starting lineup, and the kids who get base hits, the kids who are fielding well and showing improvement, they get to see their name up there and they get to see that their work is actually leading them to potential playing time, and that can change from day to day.”
The coach said he especially is grateful for the work his assistant coaches, Justin Judy, who also is the first-base coach, and Bob Brennan, have put in as they prepare for the season.
Brennan will coach the JV squad this year. He said they’re focused on discipline as they build the program this season.
“We are trying to establish some discipline, responsibility, leadership and, hopefully, that will transfer over to the program moving forward,” Moody said. “Sometimes people look for immediate success but having lost a total of nine good seniors last year, we are going to have to do a bit of reloading and rebuilding.”
Monday’s preseason game starts at 5 p.m. on Tiger Field.