Pitching, teamwork help Garrard County to successful start

Published 9:39 am Thursday, April 5, 2018

CJ Lynn is excited about his baseball team this season.

That could probably be said for every season, but the head coach at Garrard County said he’s seeing similarities between this year’s team and the 2015 team that won the 45th District championship.

“We’ve been playing really well,” Lynn said. “Our boys have bought in to what we’ve got to do to be in games and compete in our games as we progress through the season. I’m really pleased with the intensity we’ve been playing with and the way the boys have been playing with one another, keeping each other up, keeping everybody motivated. It’s about as good as I’ve had it in my six years here, the meshing has been very good.”

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The Golden Lions are 3-1 this season and have enjoyed the sunny weather in Panama City, Florida for the Panama City Beach Bash.

They’ll play another game there before returning to Kentucky after spring break.

Lynn said the eagerness to play has led to his team putting pressure on its opponents — in the strike zone and on the basepaths.

“Really the biggest thing is they’re eager to play, they’re wanting to do well,” he said. “They want to have fun. That’s what you’ve got to do as high school baseball players, you want to win all the time, but competing and having fun while you compete makes you play loose, play hard. Things go your way if you put pressure on people and that’s what we’ve been trying to do, and it’s been working.”

Seniors Anthony Justus and Trevor Jones have been doing a bulk of the damage for the Golden Lions: Jones is averaging .467 and Justus isn’t far behind at .455. Jones leads the team with five runs scored so far this season. Tanner McGuffey and Collin Carver are leading the team with six and five RBIs, respectively.

Three of those four names are seniors, and the Golden Lions have nine seniors on the squad. That’s where it starts for Lynn’s squad. These seniors were freshmen when the 2015 team made its run to the regional title game.

“We have nine seniors and eight of them pretty much start for us,” Lynn said. “Those guys, I’ve had some of them for five years. But they’ve got coaching from that 2015 team when they were freshmen. Those guys showed them the ropes. We’ve had to tweak the positions that some of them play, and it’s allowed us diversity in where they can play and how they can play. We’re interchangeable in what we can do with all of our guys.

“The guys that have been standing out, Trevor Jones and Anthony Justus, they’ve been swinging the bat really well for us,” Lynn continued. “Tanner McGuffey has really improved a whole lot behind the plate. He worked his tail off all summer, all fall to become a very solid catcher behind the plate. That’s a big help for us this year.”

But the real improvement for the Golden Lions has been on the mound: Carver leads the team with nine innings pitched, and he’s allowed just one earned run to go with 13 strikeouts. The team has a combined 1.56 earned run average.

“Pitching wise, we’ve got five or six guys we can run out there and throw at any time,” Lynn said. “Are we going to overpower people all the time? No, we’re not. But they’re smart enough to know what they have, what they can throw. That’s very positive. Ethan Lamb, Collin Carver, Trevor Jones, Brady Davis, have all done well.”

Lynn also noted Ashton Smith, who was hurt for last season but provides a tall (6-foot-2) left-handed frame on the mound. He’s got six strikeouts through just three innings this year.

“He’s a kid who was hurt for all last year, he’s a 6-2 lefty and he’s getting to throw some,” Lynn said. We’re trying to save arms and get people in positions to improve our situation as a team if need be. A lot of those guys, you can say it for all of them, we’ve had an improvement at every position we’re playing this year. Those guys have improved and just worked their tails off. That’s all you can ask for.”

Lynn said the biggest comparison he sees between 2015 and 2018 has been the drive on and off of the field in his players.

“Comparing that team to this team, just their hunger. Their hunger to do well, to win,” he said. “To want something and know that this is some of their last times being able to play baseball. They want to go out as good as they can go, and their hunger is there. That’s something that compares to that 2015 team.”