To say that the Southwestern High School baseball team will start from scratch this season would be an understatement.
First off, after nine years at the helm, Alex Eaton stepped down as the Warriors' baseball head coach to take over the school's athletic director role. Former assistant Michael Gover will take over as the Warriors' new head baseball coach. Gover has been a part of the Warrior varsity baseball coaching staff since 2010, and was the Southern Middle head baseball coach from 2005 to 2009
Secondly, the Southwestern baseball program said goodbye to six senior last season, who ended their careers at Southwestern with a strong 75-11 career record. Jeffrey Madden, Ethan Jones, Noah Helton, Bryce Russell, Tanner McBryde, and Logan Keith had been the backbone for the Warriors baseball program since they were sophomores.
However, the 2020 Warriors baseball program still returns a load of talent.
Senior Tanner McKee hit for .329 last season, scored 29 runs and drove in 21 runs. On the mound, McKee pitched 37 innings, struck out 48 batters, and recorded a team-high seven wins.
"Tanner McKee has been with us playing varsity since he was in the eighth grade," Gover stated. "We expect him to play big role on the mound for us and in the infield playing primarily shortstop and third base. He has signed with Asbury College to continue his career at the next level. He's a hard worker and great leader for us, and he is the only senior on the team."
Junior Tyler Pumphrey pitched 37 innings last season, struck out 35 batters, earned five wins , and had an impressive 1.67 ERA. At the plate, Pumphrey drove in 15 runs and scored 16 runs.
"Tyler Pumphrey will be one of our top three starters on the mound for us, and we are hoping he can build on his offensive stats from last year," Gover stated.
Junior Tucker Howard bated .321, scored 27 runs, and drove in 12 runs.
"Tucker Howard played every game as sophomore, and we expect him to be our lead-off hitter this season, and fill a big void in pitching staff," Gover stated. "He pitched very little last year due to our seniors, but will take a big jump this year."
Junior Riley McBryde had a .298 batting average, scored 16 runs, and drove in 23 runs.
"Riley McBryde will move from center field, where he played all last season, to go behind the plate," Gover explained. "We expect him to catch every game and will also need him on the mound this season. Big things are expected from him offensively as well."
Although the 2020 Warriors are young, they were part of a very successful team from last season. The 2019 Warriors won the 48th District Tournament title, and finished the season with a 24-5 record. They also started out the 2019 season with a school record best of 11 straight wins.
"This season our strengths should be our pitching and defense," Gover explained. "I think we will be competitive on the mound and make the routine plays. Our guys will pitch to contact, we don't have anyone that is going to overpower you.
"Our one weakness is we are a young team, that will be very inexperienced at the plate, so we may have some issues scoring runs," Gover explained. "Big adjustment for most of our guys will be seeing good varsity pitching."
Like every other baseball team in America, the Warriors' season has been put on hold with the emergence of the COVID-19 virus outbreak.
"With the latest stoppage of play due to the COVID-19 outbreak we are adhering to the 'dead period' that has been put in place by the KHSAA and want nothing but the safety and health of our players and their families to be number one priority at this time," Gover stated. "Obviously, we are hoping to get to play some sort of a season and my guys are devastated, to say the least. Many of them have been working since last season was over to try and earn a shot to play, and then when we were five days away from the real thing it all came to a stop."
STEVE CORNELIUS is the CJ Sports Editor and can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @CJSportseditor.