Young Swamp Fox squad out to prove itself
The Ashley Ridge baseball program will field a varsity team with less experience than the one it had last season, but the goals remain the same.
After winning the 2012 Class AAAA state championship, the Swamp Foxes graduated 14 seniors and half of them were four-year starters.
Despite having no true returning starters on this year’s squad, Ashley Ridge coach BJ Bellush is optimistic.
“Hopefully we won’t miss a beat, but there are some holes to fill,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do swinging the bats and pitching but hopefully we can put it all together as the season goes along and be in contention to win the region. Our expectations are the same as last year. I guess you could call it a rebuilding year but we don’t approach it that way. Our main goal every year is to win the region and go deep into the playoffs. We are going to coach these guys the same way.”
For Bellush that means stressing work ethic and fundamentals first and foremost.
“Defensively we stress making the routine play 100 percent of the time and keeping the walks to a minimum,” the coach said. “Hopefully we will have the same mental toughness. That is something we try to instill in our kids from day one – how to handle adversity and to play with a chip on their shoulder.”
Seniors Austin Garland and Kyle Hongsermeier and junior Jason Miller have more varsity experience than the rest of the team. Hongsermeier ran bases for the varsity last season and both Garland and Miller started the last three games of 2012 after being pulled up from the JV.
Miller will likely do a lot of pitching this season. When he isn’t on the hill, he will play third base. Garland, John Sanchez, Carson Walls, Rusty Grayson and James Govan have also shown promise on the mound this preseason.
“Jason will probably be our No. 1 and the other guys are battling for the other starting spots and relief roles,” Bellush said. “Our strong point last year was pitching and while it’s not a weak point this year we are thinner in that area.”
The Swamp Foxes will open the season with three freshmen in the infield. Aaron Miller will man first; Hunter Grover will man second; and Grayson will be the shortstop.
Junior Wesley Aschenbrenner will catch.
Hongsermeier will anchor the outfield, which will also feature Garland in right field and sophomore Josh Litchfield in left field.
Opening the season in reserve roles are Tres Pendergrass, Eric Badura, Ben Beresky, Bradley McLaughlin and Chandler Conlee.
Everyone except Grover, who transferred from Summerville Catholic School, has at least a year with the program but most of the players only have JV experience.
“Our goal is to get better everyday,” Bellush said. “We are still playing around with the lineup but nearly all of these kids have been in our program so hopefully we will have some consistency. Some of our young guys are going to have to kind of catch up to the better pitchers they will face so we are just going to keep working and hope we get better.”
Garland and Jason Miller showed they swing a pretty good stick at the end of last season. Aaron Miller is 6-4 and weights 232 so he has some pop in his bat. Bellush says Grayson also shows great promise at the plate.
“We are hoping some of them will have a breakout season,” Bellush said. “We are hoping to get some run production out of those guys.”
The one good thing about losing so many starters is it opens the door for other players to step up to the plate, both literally and figuratively.
“If we had everybody returning from a team that won a state championship it could be a disadvantage but because we have so many young guys I think it makes this group a little bit hungrier,” Bellush said. “They know last year’s seniors left a legacy. Now we can show them the banner and talk to them about what it takes to achieve that. It gives them something to strive for and I think it helps them develop trust in the coaches and makes them want to work harder. A lot of them are hungry to leave their own legacy.”
Contact Roger Lee @ 873-9424 ext. 213 or email@example.com