Pitching is key for Vikings|Prep baseball

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 23, 2010

If baseball were an arms race, Warren Central’s team this year might have to be limited by a superpower summit.

The Vikings, seeking to bounce back from last year’s early playoff exit and a 10-20 record, will bring a deep pitching staff as they aim to make a run in Class 6A.

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Second-year coach Josh Abraham put his charges through a tough offseason hitting and conditioning program and feels that the results will translate to more wins and more confidence for his squad.

“We’ve had a hard, tough offseason and our expectation of our team is to play as hard as they can for all 28 games, compete, have a chance to win in the end and make a run in the playoffs,” Abraham said.

“Last year left a little sour taste in their mouths because they felt they could compete with anybody in the state and they’ve certainly worked hard enough this offseason, and since we’ve been practicing. They’re fully ready and they’re experienced with a lot of returning starters from last year, so they’re excited about the opportunity.”

Key for the Vikings is the return of last year’s primary inning-eaters, Colby Key and Dylan Wooten. Key threw 42 innings with 24 strikeouts and a 3.33 ERA, while Wooten struck out 27 in 39 1/3 innings of work with a 5.69 ERA.

Among others pitching will be Jay Harper (14 1/3 innings pitched, 14 strikeouts, 4.88 ERA), Dee White (9 1/3 innings pitched, 2.25 ERA, 11 strikeouts) Blake Jobe, Beau Wallace, Clayton Ashley and catcher Carlos Gonzalez.

The emergence of Josh Stuckey behind the plate allowed Abraham to get Gonzalez’s big arm into the pitching mix.

“Josh has shown a lot of upside and we’ve got Will Stegall and Bill McRight too,” Abraham said of his impressive catching depth. “We’d like to use Carlos on the mound and at third base as well.”

Another plus is that much of last year’s starting infield and outfield return, giving the Vikings continuity offensively and defensively.

White was second on the team last season with 16 RBIs and had seven extra-base hits divided amongst five doubles and two triples. Wooten drove in 14 runs last season  while Jimmy Elliott, Wallace and Gonzalez each drove in 12, giving the Vikings a balanced lineup that can drive runs up and down the order.

Abraham feels that the Vikings will improve in his second year now that they are used to his expectations and his methods.

“These guys have really bought in to what we’re trying to do now,” Abraham said. “These kids have worked extremely hard and they have an expectation of me as I have of them. My number one thing is just play the game hard and these kids have really bought into that.”

Contact Steve Wilson at swilson@vicksburgpost.com