Tigers seek improvement in 2015
The Marshall County Tigers baseball team is looking to return to prominence after notching an 18-11 record last season and failing to advance past the District 12-AA tournament for the first time in four years.
Although the Tigers scored 5.5 runs per contest and saw their pitching staff finish with a 2.37 ERA last season, they struggled to field the ball consistently and averaged nearly three errors per game during the 2014 campaign.
"We want to cut down on our errors this year. The theme for this year's team needs to be sound defense and solid pitching. If we score some runs too, that'll be gravy," said new coach Mike Reese, who served as an assistant on MCHS' coaching staff for the last three decades.
Marshall County returns six starters to their lineup and a host of experienced pitchers, but Reese expects his veteran players to be challenged for their jobs by some talented underclassmen.
Senior catcher Chandler Harmon headlines the Tigers' returning starters after earning All-District honors last season. Having committed to play at Lee University, Harmon possesses an extremely strong arm and threw out 26 base runners last year. Harmon is also a threat at the plate and posted a .333 batting average last year with four doubles, two triples, and a homerun.
"We're going to be strong up the middle defensively and it starts with Chandler catching. He's going to be our field general. He's a smart young man and a hard worker so we're expecting big things from him. Anytime someone has a runner on base he can throw them out," said Reese.
Junior Derrick McKnight provides the Tigers with a quality backup catcher when Harmon needs rest or is asked to pitch.
The Tigers have a solid double play duo in junior shortstop Wilson Limbaugh and senior second baseman Lane Whitesell.
Blessed with a strong arm, Limbaugh has good range and the ability to make the spectacular play on occasion. Limbaugh has worked hard to improve as a hitter during the offseason as well and became a more confident player after having a productive summer season.
Entering his second year as a full time starter, Whitesell makes the routine plays on defense and will be counted on to a be a run producer at the top part of the Tigers lineup. Whitesell also saw time on the mound last year and is probably the hardest thrower on MCHS' pitching staff.
Versatile sophomores Brett McGehee and Austin Wood could see playing time in the middle infield when Limbaugh or Whitesell are asked to pitch.
Senior first baseman Cameron Isley is a sure handed defensive player and a good contact hitter that has improved his power over the offseason. Isley pitched in nine games last year for Marshall County as well and recorded 31 strikeouts and a 1.91 ERA over 29 1/3 innings en route to earning All-District honors.
When Isley is pitching, Tristan Underwood (Jr.), Stuart Warner (Soph.), Thomas Hawkins (Soph.), and Logan Bailey are all candidates to see playing time at first base.
Senior Dunn Crowder and junior Ethan Poteete split time at third base last year, but both players will have to stave off challenges by sophomores Trent Richardson and Brayden Gentry. Poteete was swinging a hot bat over the summer, before suffering a severe knee injury that hampered his development.
Senior centerfielder Connor Bush is the only established player returning in the outfield for the Tigers. An All-District selection last year, Bush has excellent speed and can track down long fly balls in Marshall County's cavernous outfield. After batting .316 last year, Bush is a candidate to bat leadoff for the Tigers this year and is a stolen base threat once he gets on.
"Connor is a smart player and the leader of our outfield. He has a good arm and a lot of range," said Reese.
Marshall County has several capable candidates battling for the other two outfield spots, as Jay Howard (Soph.), Hawkins, Madison Peete (Jr.), Josh McKnight (Jr.) Brooks Leftwich (Sr.) Ethan Evans (Sr.), and Hunter Bradford are all competing for potential playing time.
"Right now we've got a lot of guys that are interchangeable. Some of them are offensive players and some are defensive," said Reese.
On the mound
Coming off a strong sophomore campaign that saw him notch a team best 5-1 record, post a 1.65 ERA over 46 2/3 innings, and earn All-District honors, Warner leads a deep Tiger pitching staff that includes Isley, Whitesell, Leftwich, Gentry, Peete, Josh McKnight, Harmon and Leftwich.
Leftwich notched four wins last year and posted a 2.38 ERA while throwing the second most innings (36 2/3) on the team last year. Although he doesn't have an overpowering fastball, Leftwich has a sharp breaking curveball that keeps hitters off balance.
Peete, Gentry, and Harmon are all hard throwers that can either start or come out of the bullpen, while Josh McKnight has good control and gives MCHS a change of pace on the mound.
"I think we've got a lot of guys that can pitch and contribute. They may not all be the guys that will pitch in our District games, but they can help us," said Reese.
Boasting a strong pitching staff and an experienced lineup, the Tigers should contend for the District title this year if they can improve defensively. Marshall County, however, will have to beat out defending District champ Spring Hill and CPA, who both reached the Class AA State Tournament last season, while Cascade, Page, and Giles County are all expected to field solid ball clubs this year.
2015 Marshall County Tigers baseball schedule
Date Opponent Location Time
March 9 Hume Fogg (at Rose Park) Away 6:30
March 12 Rutherford County Grand Slam Challenge Away 4:30 & 7:00
March 14 Rutherford County Grand Slam Challenge Away 1:30 & 6:30
March 17 Lewis County Away 6:30
March 19 Murfreesboro Central Magnet Home 6:30
March 20 Rossview (at Independence) Away 6:30
March 21 Columbia Central Away 12:00
March 23 Page Home 6:30
March 24 Page Away 6:30
March 26-29 Smokey Mountain Classic Away TBA
March 30 Christ Presbyterian Academy Home 6:30
March 31 Christ Presbyterian Academy Away 6:30
April 3 Tullahoma Home 12:00
April 6 Giles County Away 6:30
April 7 Giles County Home 6:30
April 11 Warren County Away 2:00
April 13 Spring Hill Home 6:30
April 14 Spring Hill Away 6:30
April 15 Ensworth Away 4:30
April 16 Shelbyville Away 6:30
April 20 Cascade Away 6:00
April 21 Cascade Home 6:00
April 23 Tullahoma Away 6:30
April 24 Shelbyville Home 6:30
April 27 Stewarts Creek Home 6:00
April 30 District Tournament TBA TBA