Danville’s young talent looks to return to region in 2018

Published 9:33 pm Sunday, March 18, 2018

You want youth?

Danville’s got it.

The Admirals sport a 24-man roster with more than half of it being eighth graders or freshmen. Pitchers and batters alike graduated from last year’s 20-win team, and there are plenty of holes to fill for head coach Paul Morse in his 18th year as head coach.

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But there’s no doubt, those underclassmen have the talent to succeed.

“It’s a really young team. I’ve never had a team this young, even when I first started coaching,” Morse said. “I started seventh graders in those years. We’ve got 24 on the roster and I believe we have 15 who are either eighth-graders or freshmen. It’s a really young team, but on the flip side of that, we’ve got a ton of talent. I think it’s a year where we can’t get discouraged early. There will be days where we’ll have three or four freshmen out there, an eighth-grader out there. Our key for this year is just to get better as the year goes on and build.”

Danville’s got five seniors and three juniors on the roster. Senior Brennan Washington will be one of the leaders in the infield and at the top of the lineup. He said that the pitching this season will be the team’s strength.

“First off, our pitching is probably what’s going to do it for us this year,” Washington said. “We’ve got solid hitting one through five and six through nine can clean it all up. Ethan Wood, Cayden Shaver, they’re both strong arms and we’ve got a few lefties. Infield is good and overall, we should be solid.”

Wood and Shaver are two new bodies for the Admirals. Wood, a freshman, has verbally committed to the University of Louisville. He’s a strong thrower and could be the leader of the Admirals’ rotation this season. Shaver, a junior from Madison Central, will be another new player who will help the Ads on both sides of the ball.

Morse said he’ll be relying on plenty of young arms this season.

“Pitching, we have a lot of arms,” he said. “Out of those 24, I think 17 pitch. They’re young arms. We’ll count on some of those freshmen and young guys to eat up innings for us. We’ve got to get good innings out of the guys who pitched last year: Austin Mott, Jacob Crank, some of those guys who are juniors and seniors. We have had a couple guys move in, and those young guys will have to throw well. The key for them, whether it’s a freshman or a senior: Throw strikes. Throw strikes and be able to mix your pitches up, be able to throw more than one pitch for a strike in any count. If you can do that, you can be successful.”

And Morse isn’t ready to name any kind of leader in the pitching rotation. It’ll depend on who steps up during the season.

“It’s early. Besides Crank and Mott, they both threw 25-30 innings apiece last year,” Morse said. “Besides that, nobody pitched varsity. To be able to say we have an ace? It’s all going to be based on production. Ethan has a great arm, we have a couple other freshmen with great arms as well. It really depends on who can handle being 14 years old pitching to 17, 18, 19 year olds. And that comes back to throwing strikes. Our ace is going to be whoever can throw the most strikes and keep us in the game.”

Crank said that it’ll be vital for the team to come together this season after losing a talented senior class — four of which are playing sports at the next level: Brian Baxa, Zach Dampier, Ellison Stanfield and Mason Schroeder.

“It’s kind of different, last year I was an underclassman with Brian and Schroeder and them as senior leaders,” Crank said. “So it’s kind of weird being an upperclassman being out there with over half of our team being underclassmen. But we have a lot of talent, and I feel like we can really make a run this year, especially if we come together as a team.”

Morse said it’ll be “a lot of trial and error” early in the season, in all aspects. He said some of the upperclassmen might move to different positions to help the underclassmen feel more comfortable. There will be plenty of opportunities for pitchers. Batters will have to step up after losing so much production from last season.

Danville will need all areas to produce by districts, because if last season showed anything, it’s that the 45th District will be a battle: Boyle County and Lincoln County played in the 12th Region title game last year, with Boyle winning the region crown. Lincoln made the region championship and Danville beat them twice during the regular-season last year. Garrard County suffered some key injuries last season but has a good blend of talent and experience this season.

“District should be tough again,” Morse said. “It’s not like it was 15 years ago, all four teams can win … Boyle won the region last year, and they’re loaded. This should be the most talent they’ve had in school history over there. I think three of their four classes over there all won the middle school conference tournament. They’ve got two or three preseason all-state guys. They return 9-of-10 starters. They should be the favorite in the district and our region as well. They’re loaded. They’ve got a great senior and sophomore class and their freshman class isn’t far behind. They’re the team to beat. Till someone knocks them off, they’re region champ.”
The Admirals missed the region tournament last year for the first time since 2003. So how far can Danville go in 2018?

“It really depends on how we grow as a team this year,” Crank said. “… Our main focus is to not come out and get down, we are a young team and we are going to struggle sometimes. I feel like we just need to put trust in each other, because that’s the main thing, trusting each other. You’re not always going to have the best game and you’ve got to be there for a teammate to pick them up. I feel like once we get that down, communicate better with ourselves, we can be a really good team this year.”