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Lincoln County High School’s Falcon baseball team has been working through a tough off-season condition program preparing for the 2013 season.
LCHS is led by Coach Travis Tate, back for his second year since returning to the program after a stint with Grissom High School in Alabama. He is assisted by returning coaches Jay McElyea and Shamichael Black. New to the coaching staff this year are Heath Barnes and Brad Cowley.
The Falcons lost 10 players from last year’s team to graduation, but Coach Tate is taking the program to the point of not rebuilding from year-to-year, but reloading instead.
Lincoln County was close to getting over the hump last season, finishing with 22 wins, one away from advancing to the regionals, falling to Columbia in the district semifinals. Ten of the Falcons’ losses in 2012 were by one run – five of those were district games and two of those went into extra innings.
“I feel like these kids will bring their best to compete,” Coach Tate said of his Falcons. “They’ve worked extremely hard in the off-season – if they give us their best and we get beat, I can’t ask any more than that.
“I’ve always heard and believe that a one-run loss falls back on the coaching,” he continued. “I feel like last year we were prepared as far as the offensive and defensive aspects of the game but not prepared mentally as we should have been. We’ve done a lot of work in that respect in the off-season.
“This is the best senior class I’ve ever coached,” he added. “Hands down, I’m not talking talent wise, but the other stuff that goes along with it. When you couple their talent with what they do in the classroom, how they handle themselves off the field, how they come to practice mentally ready to work every day and how they go above and beyond with their own work ethic, they are something special. The five have changed the culture of the program.
“We’ve got more depth than we’ve had in the past and that gives us more options,” Tate added. “That’s an advantage I feel we have over other teams in our district. We’ve got a lot of pitching depth – there are 7 or 8 arms I’ve got confidence in to use at any time.
“There will be a lot of guys getting playing time. It will vary to some degree depending who’s on the mound and who’s hot with the bat. I appreciate every kid for being a part of this program.”
The Falcons have five seniors on this year’s team, Caleb Smith, Brady Owens, Riley McCown, Dylan Hudgins and Zack Harwell. All worked with the program last year. It’s Smiths first year of eligibility following a transfer.
The team is loaded with juniors – all experienced with Coach Tate’s methods of play – with Josh Whitaker, Brandon Gower, Jonathan Jacks, Zach Malone, Jake Taylor, Carson Taylor, Gus Osgood, Jake Pierce, Tristian Norman, Nick Gatlin, Wheeler McCulloch and Dustin Spray.
Sophomores stepping up are Michael Lackey, Corey Hummerding, Logan Smith, Bo White, Colby Fisk, Tanner Gardner, Grady Wright and Chance Kimbrough.
District 8-AAA should be a dogfight this year with Tullahoma, Columbia and Lincoln County all expected by preseason prognosticators to be in the mix.
The Falcons kick off their season hosting Buckhorn on March 11. Then, on March 13, Coffee County comes to town. On March 15-16, the Falcons will play in the Sports Med Tournament in Huntsville.