WEST MADISON — Coach Kris Barrett will lean heavily on pitching and fundamental defensive play as a young Scott High School roster takes the field for the first time since 2019.
“I think that our strengths — particularly early — will be pitching and defense,” said Barrett. “Our hitting will progress as the season progresses and we’ll be a better team entering sectionals than we were in our opener at St. Albans.”
Like many spring sports rosters across the state just a season out from losing 2020 to COVID-19, the Skyhawks will play lean with just 17 on the roster, boasting only two players with significant varsity experience in Senior Alex Epling and junior Dylan Grant.
“Our pitching staff will be our catalyst,” Barrett said. “We’ve got six or seven guys that we trust to get outs for us.”
Epling, along with a pair of sophomores in Hunter Null and Griffin Miller lead the staff.
Epling possesses a good prep-level curve ball and has learned how to trust it, according to his coach.
“We have three other guys who can throw strikes and haven’t seen high school action yet and are leaning to command the strike zone and get outs with their secondary pitches,” Barrett added. “Our pitching staff could very well be our strength.”
Barrett said he feels he has a squad of real “baseball guys.”
“We have 17 kids who want to be at the facility,” he said. “They know competition is wide open and they’ve been getting at it in the weight room and they are making good progress while pushing each other. We aren’t led by a specific player but they are pushing each other and love being around each other.”
Junior Cooper Martin and senior Jeff McCoy bring varsity experience from other sports, which Barrett says will help his youthful roster.
The catcher slot — perhaps the most important position on the field for a team leaning on its hurlers — is currently locked into a three-way competition with junior Will Thompson, freshman Austin Light and senior Patrick Walls.
“We haven’t made that decision but we have three good options there,” he said.
Light has caught Miller and Null extensively in the past and has that experience under his belt.
“The communication between them has been good to see but it will be interesting to see who separates themselves as we get into the season, I’m happy with the work our catchers are putting in right now.”
Thompson and Walls will also compete for outfield spots.
Grant will man centerfield for the Skyhawks and brings experience.
“He will at least be a top centerfielder in our section,” his coach said. “He gets good reads, he’s lanky and has good speed and a plus arm. He will also do some pitching.”
Epling will handle first base and play some outfield and comes in as the most experienced varsity hitter.
“We have six infielders that can play second, third and shortstop and all of our pitchers are infielders so there will be some moving around out there,” Barrett said. “Brady Carrico has shown great footwork up the middle, Miller, Martin and Noll can play shortstop and all three along with Brady can play third base. Brady can play some outfield, too.”
Barrett said that early scrimmages with Logan and in Beckley will go a long way in helping coaches evaluate a youthful roster.
“Maybe this season more than ever, our scrimmages are very important,” he added. “We’ve went an entire year without seeing live pitching and it is a problem all teams are facing. We got some summer and fall games in when we were allowed to.”
Barrett added, “Our kids are excited for baseball and they’ve proven that with the work they’ve put in,” Barrett added. “I think we all want to get out there right now.”
Barrett will be assisted by Aaron Cook, Ty Cook, Shawn Miller, Bob Conley, Justin Chafin and Scott Light.
Scott kicks off their season at St. Albans on April 12 and will debut at home on March 16 versus Riverside at 8 p.m. as part of the McDonalds Classic that includes a matchup with Chapmanville on April 17 at 2 p.m.
Look for more Boone County spring sports previews in future editions of the CVN.