Don’t look now but it’s almost baseball time in these parts, and a recent schedule change has potentially moved the start of Arab’s season even closer
Arab teams originally were set to start their seasons on Monday against West Point (JV and varsity here, the junior high at West Point). But Arab head coach Chad Hudson announced a slight change on Tuesday: All the games will be played Saturday at Arab, weather permitting, of course.
“The forecast isn’t very good for either day, but this gives us two chances to get the games in,” said Hudson. “If we are able to play Saturday – all games will be here at Arab.
“If we cancel Saturday we will play the games as originally scheduled on Monday.”
The new schedule has the junior high teams playing at 10 a.m. Saturday, the JV teams at noon and the varsity at 2 p.m. – all at the high school field at Arab City Park.
As for the team itself, Hudson’s not sure what will happen.
“We will be inexperienced, but not necessarily young,” he said. “We lost a ton from the 2020 team – nine seniors, and eight of those guys played a lot, many of them everyday starters.
“It was a very tough end to the season last year because we had a very good team. We do return a handful of position players and some pitchers who have varsity experience.
“I believe our strength will be pitching depth and we have some experience on the infield. The big questions will be where the offensive production comes from and replacing all the outfield starters from last year.”
There are several key returners. Right-hander Gavin McBride had a huge season last year and “really emerged in the short season,” Hudson said. His stats from last year were impressive: 21.6 innings pitched, 27 strikeouts, six walks and two earned runs and 15 hits allowed.
Sam Jackson, a 6-foot-1, 180 pound senior, has started most of the past two seasons and will play third base this year. He had a very good offensive year as a junior, batting .360. He will also be used in relief.
Middle infielder Landon Law also has started the past two seasons and will step into a leadership role this season, according to Hudson.
“He has done a nice job adding strength since last year,” Hudson said. “He has really emerged as a team leader.”
Another middle infielder, Hayden Turner, is also a two-year returning starter and “is a very talented player with a high work ethic,” Hudson said. “He has added size and strength since last year and will also be used out of the bullpen this year.”
Tyler Benson, a 6-2, 196-pound righty worked his way into the rotation last year and had a great offseason, according to Hudson.
“He has improved velocity and command and shows a fastball in the mid 80’s. He will also start at first base and is a very important part of the team – a team leader,” Hudson said.
Young players who likely will have increased roles this season are RHP Brody McCain and infielder Dakota NeSmith.
“McCain commands three pitches very well and has improved velocity on the fastball,” Hudson said. “He is a plus runner and will also play in the outfield.
“NeSmith is a physical corner infielder (6-0, 200 pounds) who has a big bat and will hit in the middle of the order and be a run producer.”
The sophomore also will log some innings on the mound this year as well.