NHS baseball springs to action

Published 8:15 pm Wednesday, February 6, 2008

By By Matthew Nascone
The duo of Brandon Walker and Sean Little secured the middle of the baseball diamond for the Sid Wheatley and the Northview Chiefs in Wheatley's two years with the club.
Walker and Little graduated last year and NHS head coach Sid Wheatley said it will be hard to fill that hole on defense, but the team will find a way.
"Suring up the middle of the defense will be a key for us this year," Wheatley said. "We have been spoiled the past couple years with Walker and Little starting since before I got here. I was lucky enough to have them the last two years and you never had to worry about them. They were some good players for us."
Wheatley said some other players will have to step up and fill their shoes.
"Jeff Price is going to move from third base to shortstop this year when he is not pitching," Wheatley said. "Bradley Lowery will be in that middle infield and guys like Dakota Stuckey and possibly Patrick McPherson will be playing second for us this year."
The Chiefs have been bogged down by the weather the past few weeks, but Wheatley said the team is looking ready to go.
"We have been relegated to hitting and getting what little infield and outfield work as we can, but I feel we will be OK," he said. "We have some younger kids this time and I feel like we have a lot of potential."
The main worry on any baseball coach's mind as the season nears is pitching, and Wheatley is no different.
"We have Jeff Price coming back as a starting pitcher," Wheatley said. "And we have some other guys who threw for us last year coming back as well. Brett Hanks, Heath Burkette pitched some last year and Jacob Farish is back playing with us. Those are the four we will be counting on right now on the mound."
Wheatley said losing the bats of Walker and Little as well as their defensive prowess will be a blow, but he said this year's team will have a way to counteract that loss.
"We lost two real good hitters in Walker and Little, but from top to bottom we have a chance to be better and produce more runs," he said. "From an athletic standpoint, we have a lot of good hitters and I feel like through the middle part of the lineup and towards the back end of it we can be fairly deep."
Wheatley said Matt Walker, Trent Freeman, Jacob Farish and T.J. Hadley will provide the senior leadership in 2008.
"Trent and Matt have been with me most of the time since I have been here and they were both good leaders out on the football field this year," Wheatley said. "We hope they can do that out here as well. T.J. Hadley has been with us for the football season and got to know a lot of the guys and knew a lot of them anyway, so he should be able to help us as well. Jacob has been here before and should be a good leader."
But the team will also find some of its leadership from the underclassmen.
"I think some of our juniors will step forward for us too," Wheatley said. "Jeff Price is just a veteran for us out there on the mound. He has pitched on the varsity level since he was in the ninth grade and he has done a great job and he will be a leader for us."
Wheatley said the Chiefs will start with a small goal and work towards the ultimate goal.
"Obviously every year that I am here we want to win our district," he said. "We have our hands full because it is a tough district, but first and foremost we want to win our district. From there we want to get to the playoffs and take it as deep into the playoffs as we can."
There is another must win on the schedule for the Chiefs. They face the Escambia County Blue Devils, and Wheatley said there are completely different reasons why the Chiefs want to take out the Devils.
"We are so close and I know we have had kids go there and come here and vice versa," he said. "A lot of our kids know each other and are from over there, so it is always a big game. A lot of these kids on both sides have played together since youth ball, so it means a little extra. You always want to beat your buddy and kind of outdo him."
The schedule starts out tough for the Chiefs with no opponent below a Class 3A in the FHSAA until they face Faith Academy in the sixth game of the season. The only Florida teams the Chiefs play in their own classification of 3A are the six district games against Catholic, South Walton and Walton. They also have two games against ECHS, one against Faith Academy and one against AHSAA Class 5A St. Paul's.
"Our schedule starts out tough, but I think we are ready," Wheatley said.
NHS opens the season on the road in Pensacola against West Florida Tech Feb. 12 at 5 p.m. The first home game for the Chiefs is Feb. 14 against Navarre. The first pitch is set for 5:30 p.m.

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