“We want to build on that,” head coach Adam Williams said simply.
He said the team, which compiled an 18-12 overall record and 8-4 region record, has five returning starters and a lot of players who will be bringing some serious game experience to the field.
“We’ve got a good core group of people returning,” Williams said. “It starts with our catcher, Sam Russell. He was a mainstay in our lineup last year. We expect a lot out of him this year.
“We have Hunter Southern, our starting third baseman. Matt Brown is returning. Chris Morton has been playing for three years with our program. We also have Alex Yauslin.”
The coach said those players should prove a solid foundation upon which to build a team with a lot of other players who should contribute.
“We have a good group of seniors — we’re going to have 10,” he said. “We’re excited to see how they do.”
That talent pool is deep enough, the coach said, that competition will determine who plays.
“As far as starting lineup, we don’t have anything set in stone,” he said. “We’re going to take it one day at a time. We’ve got 10 seniors. We’ve also got 10 freshmen, a couple of sophomores and juniors. We want to see how they do. We want to create competition in our practices and get better every day.”
Williams said that competition can only help the players and team improve.
“Just because kids weren’t starters doesn’t mean they haven’t played a lot of baseball,” he said. “These kids played 40 to 50 games during the summer. They’ve got a lot of baseball in.
“We’re excited about them. It’s definitely going to be a work in progress, but we think this team can be just as good if not better than last year’s team.”
Cass pitching was a big part of the team’s success a year ago and Williams believes that should be true once again but with a different approach.
“The good thing about this team is we have a lot of arms,” Williams said. “We have a lot of good high school baseball pitchers. It starts with Noah Sims on the mound. He has pitched for three years in our program. We expect a lot out of Chris Hill, who threw a lot of varsity innings last year.
“Chris Morton will throw a lot for us this year. Jeremiah Mitchell. There’s two really good left-handed pitchers that we have. Bradley Hood is a kid we expect a lot out of, to come in out of the pen. Ben Kapito is going to pitch for us. We have a lot of kids who will throw innings for us.”
He said he and his staff will look for ways to throw that talent against their foes.
“We’re excited,” Williams said. “We are going to use our pitching staff almost like a pro pitching staff. We’re going to look for roles to develop within the program — who’s going to start, who’s going to be middle relief, long relief and closer-type situations.”
Offensively, the Colonels don’t expect to be a long-ball threat and Williams will have them busy trying to manufacture the runs.
“We’re going to have to play good team baseball,” he said. “We have to know when to move runners, when to give yourself up. We have to step in the box and compete. We’re not going to bang the ball around the ballpark. We’re not going to hit a lot of home runs, but we can get in the box and be scrappy, cut down our strikeouts, try to get walks. We work on 3-2 pitches, try to get baserunners on and move them around, be aggressive on the basepath, kind of do what we do, play Cass baseball. We don’t go out and compare ourselves with anybody else. We just want to come out and be the best we can be. We think our formula wins ballgames.”
Williams said the team should have a good defense.
“We’ve got a good, solid defensive base,” he said. “We’ve got to put athletes in position where they can make plays.”
He said players must “learn to make every play we’ve got the opportunity to make. Pitchingwise, we’re going to throw strikes and work from ahead.”
Williams said a big part of Cass will be about staying focused on things that will help the team.
“It’s going to take a good, solid baseball team to be successful,” he said. “That’s the key. With our pitching staff, we talk about passing the baton. We look at it like a 400-meter relay. Everybody has to do their job. You just pass the baton and do your job.
“If we go up there and compete, we expect to win ballgames. Our motto for the year is ‘Play the game.’ There’s a lot of things that come up in a ballgame and if we just ‘play the game’ itself and play the game within the game, I think Cass High School’s going to be successful.”
Williams said the team’s goals are simple.
“We want to be playing in the region championship game again. We want to win our sub-region and be right back there. We play to get to the playoffs. We play to win region championships. Our goal is to get back there and host that region championship this year. I think we all have a bitter taste in our mouth from how it played out last year. We want to get back to that game and win it this year.”
A year ago Cass lost the region championship to Northwest Whitfield in a best-of-three series, splitting the first two games and bowing to the Bruins, 7-6, in Game 3.
They still finished second in the region, however, and hosted a state playoff game at Cass High for the first time in 36 years, defeating Columbia High.
It lost 6-0 and 5-4 to Troup County on May 8 to conclude its season.
Other Cass players include Caleb Black, Jesse Simpson, Colt Bunch, Jordan Reed, Patrick Maddox, Cody Johnson, Dillon Tutherow, Micah Barron, Cody Ledbetter, Brett Gaddy, Casey Patterson, Bailey Campbell and Trevor Lowe.