The veteran laden New Brockton Gamecocks have been eager to get back to the baseball diamond ever since falling in the second round of the playoffs last season.
Now, in head coach Brad Barton’s fifth year at the helm, the Gamecocks are ready to make the next step in the playoffs.
“The goal every year is to win a state title,” Barton said bluntly. “That’s something I brought here when I first got here.
“The thought of (winning a state title) had never really crossed anyone’s minds but now that’s an expectation. That’s something that we strive for.”
Other than a state title, Barton said that the Gamecocks goals are winning their area and beating the teams that they aren’t expected to beat during the season before making a run in the playoffs.
With the departure of stars Noah McDaniel and Clay Kelley from last season’s team, Barton is expecting some of his veterans to fill the voids left by their departure.
Sophomore Ethan Stinson is expected to be the Gamecocks’ starting pitcher with seniors Caleb Griffin and Dalton Adkison contributing from the mound, as well.
“We expect big things out of (Ethan Stinson) as our starting pitcher and maybe somewhere else on the field,” Barton said. “Dalton and Caleb got some really good reps for us last year, too.”
Barton said that pitcher Hunter Phillips will also be a major contributor from the pitching mound as another starter, as well.
Catcher Lukas Perdue is expected to have a big season in his senior year.
“He’s going to be someone that’s going to be big for us at the catcher position,” Barton said of Perdue. “Outside of pitcher, catcher is the guy that touches the ball the most and we’re expecting big things out of him.”
Barton also pointed to junior Hunter Wallace and sophomore Russell Weeks as players to watch out for this season.
“Hunter can be someone that can really contribute for us, whether it’s at the top of the lineup or as maybe a guy that can extend an inning late,” Barton said. “Russell Weeks will have to contribute this year to fill some of those holes for us in the outfield, too.”
Barton said in years past, hitting has been an issue with the Gamecocks and it’s something he intends to concentrate on early in the season.
“I’ve always been pretty satisfied with our pitching and defense,” Barton said. “Historically, I’ve felt like when we’ve struggled it’s been because of hitting. Hopefully we are going to improve on that this year.”
The Gamecocks’ secret weapon in that area may be new assistant coach Will Hulsey. Hulsey, an Enterprise native and former Enterprise State and Middle Tennessee baseball star, is expected to help improve the Gamecock batting.
“I think (Will Hulsey) will be an outstanding asset for us with his expertise in hitting,” Barton said. “I think he’s really going to help us improve in that area.”
Barton also wants to see his Gamecocks continue to work hard as the season wears on.
“We just want to keep a great attitude, even when it’s cold or wet and it’s not easy to be excited to be out there,” Barton said. “You can tell they were eager to get back to work. We have a hard working group here and I think they’ve been ready to get back to work ever since we lost last year. They’re ready and have really good attitudes. We just need to maintain that all year.”
The Gamecocks will start the season off with a three-game road trip at Geneva on Feb. 10, Dothan on Feb. 19 and a revenge game with G.W. Long on Feb. 22. It was Long that knocked the Gamecocks out of the playoffs last season.
New Brockton hosts Headland on Feb. 24 in the Gamecocks’ first home game before heading back out on the road for back-to-back road games.
New Brockton travels to Samson on Feb. 26 and Dale County on Feb. 27.
The Gamecocks host Brantley in a doubleheader on March 1 and then hit the road again for away games against Ariton on March 5 and a double-header against Geneva on March 10.
New Brockton hosts Elba in a doubleheader on March 16 and then hosts Highland Home and Straughn on March 19 in another doubleheader.
On March 23, the Gamecocks travel to Andalusia before traveling to county rivals Kinston on April 23 and Zion Chapel on April 5.
New Brockton hosts Zion Chapel on April 6 in a doubleheader and travels to Highland Home on April 9 and Brantley on April 12 for a doubleheader.
The Gamecocks close out the regular season on the road against Straughn in a doubleheader on April 16.