The North Lincoln Knights surpassed some peoplesâ€™ expectations in 2004 posting a 7-16 record. This season, theyâ€™re setting big goals.
â€œIâ€™m definitely excited to get it started and I think weâ€™ll turn around from 7-16 to .500 or better. I know thatâ€™s setting my goal low, but I want to be able to achieve everything and take the conference and beat everybody in the county,â€ head coach Sean Andrews said.
To do that, the Knights will rely on Junior right-handers Josh Belk, Chris Hogue and Kyle Baker, along with sophomore T.J. Skidmore on the mound.
â€œThey will get the bulk of the innings. Iâ€™ll be using Alex Loftin, Justin Mintun and Aaron Price in relief. Iâ€™ll use T.J. as my closer sometimes just because he has that poker faceâ€”he shows no emotion, he just goes out there and does his job,â€ Andrews said.
If early indications translate into what the Knights can expect the duration of the season, Andrews will be pleased.
â€œThey bring everything Iâ€™m sure Iâ€™ll ask for. So far in the bullpens and scrimmages, theyâ€™ve come out throwing strikes and getting a lot of groundballs and getting ahead of the batters,â€ he said.
At the plate, Loftin will be counted on to get on base and make something happen. While Andrews is pleased with Loftinâ€™s speed, itâ€™s his patience that sets him apart.
â€œHe knows the plate, he can pick and choose the pitches and so far has shown the ability to hit the ball to the opposite field on an outside pitch,â€ Andrews said.
The second man in the lineup will be Baker, who has bulked up since last season and is a late-comer to the Knights due to North Lincoln reaching the sectional finals in the 1A Basketball Playoffs.
â€œHeâ€™s coming out from basketball (with Alex) and getting into practice the last couple of days, I can already tell heâ€™s (Baker) going to have a good year compared to last year,â€ Andrews said.
Andrews believes Belkâ€™s bat has also improved from last year. Sophomore Trent Hopkins, who will man the middle of the lineup and along with senior DH Ryan Pendleton is expected to generate power numbers at the plate.
â€œHe has once again impressed me with his power and his ability to adapt to different pitches,â€ Andrews said of three-sport athlete Hopkins.
Pendleton, who is coming off shoulder surgery, has improved according to Andrews as a result of the procedure.
â€œHeâ€™s come out with a quicker bat and a more aggressive swing at the plate,â€ he said.
The Knights will host the No. 7 ranked West Caldwell Warriors at 4 p.m. today to get their season underway.
â€œWeâ€™re hoping we can overcome the cold and start off the year right and not worry about what happened in the past and come out with a blaze of glory,â€ Andrews said.
by John Mark Brooks