In 2017, the Big Red hopes to recapture some of that magic and make a run at the FC title. Returning nine lettermen and losing just one player to graduation, Plymouth has the experience to piece together a successful season. But after finishing 9-16 and 4-10 in the FC last season, the Big Red have some work to do to establish themselves as an FC front runner.
Third year head coach Jason Higgins has set some very hefty goals for his squad heading into the 2017 season.
“Our team goals are to win 15-plus games and make it to the district tournament,” Higgins said.
Plymouth has a mixture of youth and veterans but all of the players have the experience. The Big Red are led by first team All-FC selection Austin Nester who will handle things at shortstop and provides a nice arm in the pitching rotation. Junior Seth Bailey will man things behind the dish for the third consecutive year after earning the starting spot as a freshman.
Senior Mitchell Chaffins will start at first base while junior Jarett Miller takes over at second. Sophomore Treven Lane will be at the hot corner with AJ Hamman and Brennan Marsillett in left and center field. Higgins is hoping to see someone step up and take right field during the preseason.
“We need to solidify our outfield,” Higgins said. “We had way too many misplayed balls last season that cost us. We need to final three guys who can make the routine play game after game and with the new pitch count guidelines, we need to do everything we can to keep our pitch count down.”
The pitching rotation will be a major strength for the Big Red as well as the catcher position. Miller, Lane, Chaffins, Nester and Bailey will all see time on the mound this season while Bailey and Miller provide the back stop behind the plate.
“Seth and Jarrett are two of the best catchers in the area,” Higgins said. “They both are tremendous at blocking and receiving the ball. They both have above average arms to maintain the opponent’s run game. Our Top 3 pitchers should provide solid innings the year. Jarrett really put in a lot of work in the offseason and should become a name everybody in the area will recognize. Treven pitched very will last season with a 2.72 ERA as a freshman. Mitchell will provide senior leadership and does a great job of throwing strikes.”
Higgins is counting on experience to provide the Big Red with a solid offensive season.
“We will have a majority of 2-3 year lettermen in the top half of our lineup,” Higgins said. “We have the ability to drive the ball gap to gap and put ourselves in scoring position a lot. But we have to develop the bottom third of our lineup. We struck out too much in 2016. The X-factor to our season will be how well the last few batters can improve and make consistent solid contact. That will determine our success this season.”
The Big Red won its first FC title in 20 years in 2012 before New London went on a run of four consecutive FC titles. Higgins admits the Wildcats are still the team to beat.
“New London has to be the favorite,” Higgins said. “Their ace pitcher, Ryan Lane, is one of the best in the area. The unique thing about the FC is that each team has to come to play every game because anybody can beat anybody on a given day. I believe if we play teh way we are capable of this season, we could finish in the top half of the conference.”
Rounding out the roster is senior Logan Myers, sophomores Avery Horne and Anthony Montgomery and freshmen Lukas Montgomery, Payton Young and Walker Elliott.
The Big Red kick off their season at 5 p.m. on Monday at Colonel Crawford.