At any other baseball program, this would be the time to panic.
Only one starting position player from last season's Evans state semifinal team will return to the squad this year. That leaves Knight head coach Ricky Beale with the task of finding eight new starters before the season begins Feb. 26.
"That group of seniors last year had been with us a while," he said. "They knew the routine. Losing those guys was real tough."
With four of those starting seniors now playing college baseball, Beale is left with last year's junior and sophomore bench players. He's not in panic mode yet.
"It's going to be a big turnaround, but we're excited because of the type of kids we've got," he said. "We've got some young guys we're real excited about."
The young crew includes sophomore Jeff Rice and junior Teddy Leverett. Neither has started in a varsity game, but a strong performance in summer league play from both has them as frontrunners for two open starting positions. Along with junior Kevin Millward, Evans will have several underclassmen serve as a regular part of the lineup.
That's not exactly bad news.
"Some people might say we should panic, but we believe in the program and the coaches," senior Pat Husbands said.
It's that type of attitude that has carried the Evans program to five state championships and put numerous former Knights in the college and professional ranks.
Beale said he hopes to continue that legacy in 2007. The task of filling eight starting spots might appear daunting, but the Evans program has been here before. Beale and his coaching staff were in a similar situation at the beginning of last season.
"As a sophomore going into my junior year, we lost a lot of our starting pitchers," senior Kyle Golden said. "Then look at what we did."
The Knights went all the way to the state quarterfinals, with Golden bearing much of the pitching load. He's one of six seniors on the squad this season and will be the No. 1 man in the pitching rotation again. Seniors Husbands and Matt Fleenor will also contribute on the mound along with juniors Millward and Leverett.
While the pitching will be a strong point, Beale said the rest of the lineup will take some work. In a region with rivals Greenbrier and Lakeside, the sooner, the better.
"It's the same goal as always - to be one of the four teams in the region left standing when the (regular) season's over," he said. "We want to improve until May."
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