Evans baseball coach Ricky Beale will be the first to admit starting over isn't easy.
One year after taking the Evans baseball team to the AAAA State Tournament's Final Four, Beale will begin the 2006 season without the help of nine seniors from last year's squad. Four of them made up the entire Knights starting pitching rotation.
"There's going to be a lot of new faces starting for us, but they're not all new to the team," Beale said.
As the Knights took the practice field on a rare sunny day this past week, only one player on the field was not part of last season's final four team. Although most of the returners did not start, Beale said he hopes simply watching last year's deep run through the state tournament will help motivate this year's roster.
At the center of that lineup stands center fielder Shawn Ward. The senior led the entire CSRA with 55 RBI last season and will be expected to carry much of the offensive load in 2006.
"Anytime you have a kid coming back who put up such big numbers, it's good," Beale said. "Hopefully he'll continue the year he had last year."
Ward and catcher Wes Baxter lead a crew of six seniors who Beale said will most likely start for the Knights. For the Evans coaching staff, the real work before the season opener is deciding who will take the mound.
"Our only question is our pitching," Ward said. "I've heard that people think we're going to be weak, but just wait. We'll do fine."
Senior Josh Brodhecker will make the transition from his role as a closer last year to a starter this season. Left-handed hurler Cory Rogers will join Robbie Bryant, Kevin Millward and Pat Husbands as pitching options this year for Evans. Senior right fielder Matt Stark might also get the call to the mound.
Beale said no matter what the rotation and lineup look like, the final product is still a work in progress.
"We know we won't be at full strength for our opener. It's going to take some time," he said.
Evans will open its season Monday at 5 p.m., playing host to Burke County.
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