With all the shuffling of games and times and sites this weekend because of weather issues, Arab’s varsity baseball team ended up being the only set of Knights to actually play on opening weekend, on the road instead of home and at 3 p.m. Saturday instead of 2.
About an hour into Saturday’s game at West Point, Arab coach Chad Hudson was probably wondering if that was a good thing.
The frigid cold was all the worse in the early going when West Point jumped out to a 6-1 lead after three innings en route to a 6-2 victory. Junior high and junior varsity games were ultimately postponed and there remained some hope on Monday that two JV games would be played Tuesday afternoon but rainy and icy weather seemed to be getting worse on Monday, not better.
As for Saturday…
“We struggled,” Hudson said flatly. “We just came out and played poorly to start the game. We looked like a team with a lot of new starters.”
Truth is, they are. With nine players lost to graduation, many of those seniors had starting roles and Hudson is well aware he has a team that needs varsity playing time.
The good news Saturday was, things got better.
“I was really disappointed in how we started but we finished strong,” Hudson said. “We hit some balls really hard right at them so I definitely felt better about things as the day went on, but we certainly have some work to do.”
Brody Bradshaw was 2-for-3 and had a huge catch in left field with the bases loaded and two outs after the rugged start. Things improved on the mound, too.
“Landon Law and Hayden Turner pitched three shutout innings in relief so that was good to see,” said Hudson. “We had several chances late in the game but couldn’t get a big hit when we needed it with people in base.
“We committed six errors. It’s hard to win like that. We have a lot of players without much varsity experience. We will get better as we go.”
That’s weather permitting, of course. When play does resume on a consistent basis, there will be some interesting story lines to follow on this team.
Several young players, for instance, are competing for the catcher spot. Sophomore Weslee Staton returns after backing up Taylor Ferguson last year, but he is battling a pair of freshmen, Andrew Carroll and KB Lackey.
“We feel like we will be fine with the combination of those guys back there,” Hudson said.
Bradshaw, a senior, had a good preseason and showed in his first game he’s ready to contribute as a starting outfielder. James Wesson Johnson is back after not playing last year and is expected to give a boost to the outfield as well.
Sophomores Owen Garrison and John Ray Wilks also have had very good preseasons and will be varsity contributors, according to Hudson.
“This group has been a lot of fun to coach,” Hudson said. “It is clear that this team enjoys playing together and they have worked very hard in the offseason.
“We are excited to get back to playing games again after the shortened season last year.”