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baseball preview: BHS rebuilding behind Ford
Buckner pleased with pitching staff led by Copeland

Though encouraged by his team’s pitching and led by two special talents, Matt Buckner’s 2009 Bearden baseball team is especially young.

“The 2009 Bulldogs will be the least experienced Bulldog team in about five years,” coach Buckner said, replacing seven of nine starters and the top four pitchers from a 2008 team finishing 35-6 and second in District 4-AAA to state champion Farragut.

However, “It’s a good group, a hard-working group,” Buckner said. “I believe in ’em. I think we’re going to go and do some good things.”

Senior standout shortstop Ryan Ford will start for a third straight season, coming off a .361 average in 2008 with 53 hits. Buckner also is high on Ford’s defensive abilities.

Ford and standout senior first-baseman/pitcher Garrett Copeland “hopefully will provide leadership for a group of very inexperienced players,” Bucker said. Copeland is a four-year position starter (280 average in ’08). “Copeland has swung it pretty good ... he’s been around awhile.”

Copeland, a southpaw with a sterling 12-1 career record, is ace of a BHS pitching staff “that’s going to be better than some might expect, I think,” Buckner said. “It’s been better than I expected so far.”

Copeland returned in 2008 from labrum surgery that prevented him from pitching in ’07.

Senior pitcher Ryan Potter is No. 2, sporting a 4-2 career BHS record. “Potter and Copeland, they’re our two best,” Buckner said. adding Potter also is the starting third baseman. “They’ve thrown real well in scrimmages.”

Sophomore Dakota Stallings, No. 3, “is a young kid, but by the end of the year he’s going to be awful good,” Buckner said. “He’s got a big arm and a big upside.”

Juniors Chase Keen, a lefty, and Daniel Hullett round out the five-man rotation. “Daniel Hullett’s done pretty good,” Buckner said, adding Keen “has been great so far.” When not pitching, Keen could be the man in left field.

“Somebody who’s really emerged on the mound is Jacob Edwards,” Buckner added about his projected starting right fielder (.333 average in 2008), a University of North Carolina at Asheville signee. “I just started pitching him this fall, and I really think he’s going to help us a lot. … He could be top three” in starting rotation, “or he could be mostly a bullpen guy. He’s going to be in the mix for sure.”

Buckner also said Edwards has “hit well” in scrimmages. “I expect Edwards to be one of our best hitters.”

Also under pitching consideration is junior Anson Quillen. “He’s thrown real well in scrimmages,” Buckner said. Juniors Danny Billinson and Cory Phillips and sophomorez Chris Hamilton and Marshall Wilkins could contribute.

Senior Sean Greenway will start at second base. “I expect Greenway to have a big year with the bat,” the BHS skipper said.

Jonathan Elmore, a senior, will start in center field while senior Mark Lail, a Winthrop University signee, will catch. Both are among “a cast of very hardworking seniors in which I expect big things out off,” Buckner said.

As a designated hitter, sophomore Drew Pasilas “I’d say is going to be in there,” Buckner said, adding Pasilas also could see time at third base or catcher. “He’s going to be pretty good.”

Buckner included the following juniors “who will make major contributions and will push … for playing time:” first baseman Joe Bruce, outfielder Dillon Wilker, infielder Garrett Sale and catcher Travis Scates.

Buckner said he also expects outfield help from current BHS basketball guard Ty Greene, a sophomore.

“If this group comes together I think we can continue to be very successful,” Buckner said.

Buckner’s assistant coaches are Buddy Wilker, Jack Tate, Mitch Carter and Steve Jones.


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