Late Season Grade Better than Some Might Expect
Staff’s Plan…For Iron to Sharpen Iron
‘[I]t’s always exciting to see your team turn the corner…’ Ryan Cox, BHS Assistant Manager
Bobcats home for the 24th, 26th, and 28th of May to close regular season
At this point in the season, Breathitt has played a murderous schedule and the Bobcats’ baseball team is coming off back to back wins against quality teams (Letcher Central; No. 5 team in the 14th-Region and Magoffin County, 15-9 in the 15th-Region).
Magoffin County threw its “Ace” in the Breathitt game. Lucas Litteral, who is the KHSAA’s strike-out leader, KY-wide. All Litteral did was fan 15-Bobcats. Somehow he still left the bump on the short end of a 4-1 final.
Breathitt stands at 8-8 and in 6th-place in the 14th-Region. Breathitt is undefeated in its District.
We decided to sit down with a member of the Bobcat Varsity Baseball staff and ask for his impression about the team heading down the home stretch. We would have loved to have interviewed The Skipper, Alex Hamilton; but his schedule made it about impossible to pigeon-hole a convenient time and one during the newspaper’s regular business hours.
We were able to sit down with former Bobcat great, base/bench coach, and Assistant Manager, Ryan Cox. We provided some questions to direct the interview and Coach Cox came forth with some compelling stuff.
As is our custom, the paper’s questions will follow the initials, “JTV” for Jackson Times-Voice. Coach Cox’s answers follow his initials, “RC.”
JTV: How do you feel the team is jelling and do you believe you're coming down the stretch playing your best baseball?
RC: Absolutely. As coaches it’s always exciting to see your team turn the corner and perform at its best in May, with tournament time right around the corner. We told the boys at the beginning of the year the schedule was going to be rough but for a good reason.
Playing a schedule loaded with top-tier talent has put our team in a great spot for success. They have had to overcome a lot of adversity and face many in-game situations they weren’t used to experiencing, offensively and defensively.
We’ve learned lots of hard lessons this season. However, we have built our confidence and we believe we can compete for the title in the 14th-Region.
JTV: Who have been some of the surprises for the staff on the season and who are some of the guys really pouring on the steam as we prepare for the playoffs?
RC: All of our boys have really picked it up the last 2 weeks. Andrew Combs, Isaac Bellamy, and William Long have stepped up at the plate and been able to get some big hits for us in some tight games recently.
Jake Combs and Bash Howard have played lock down D at the left side of the infield. Our pitching staff has worked their tails off all year.
I could brag on all of our boys for the work they have contributed. They bought into our system and have given us good attitude and effort. Hard to expect much more from a bunch of high-schoolers as a coach.
JTV: You guys have “fiddled-around” with different defensive alignments. Do you think, defensively, you have the right nine on the field right now and point to some evidence of that coming from off the diamond?
RC: Our coaching staff has asked a lot of our players from day 1. We’ve constantly changed up pitching rotations, positions, and the lineup.
We’ve had guys step up in big ways, whether it be at the plate or playing a position in the field they haven’t had experience before playing. We have great Senior leadership in Skyler Haddix and William Long who have both stepped up lately and been doing big things for us on and off the field.
We have a solid infield that I believe is the most talented and all around youngest in the Region, consisting of mostly sophomores, 1 junior, and an 8th grader who is holding back under SB 128, so he may even be a 7th-grader.
We have speed all over the outfield and the ability to chase down balls hit in the gaps. What makes our team so dangerous is that almost all of our players are versatile and can play 3 or even 4 positions.
When pitching changes are made, we are able to completely change our defensive lineup and strategy where needed. That kind of versatility and utility are hard on which to place a value but, still, very valuable.
JTV: What would you like to see from this young club as you begin putting a bow on the ’21 Spring season?
RC: We want them to compete, night in an night out, at a consistent level of excellence. That’s what we, as a coaching staff, preach to the players. Go out and compete for yourself and your teammates.
Bring the attitudes and the effort to the field that it takes to win ball games. Win or lose, if they will do that, I won’t have anything about which to complain.
We always tell them, leave it all out on the field for your teammates. That’s all we want out of every member on the roster.
JTV: You have had some young guns play very well for you; guys like Bash Howard, who, with SB128 and his declaration about holding back, is really a 7th grader. Talk about some of the young talent and what you believe it means for the program going forward?
RC: We are trying to build a winning tradition here at Breathitt. We have a lot of guys who are 8th-grade, Freshmen, and Sophomores that already have years of varsity baseball experience or are getting it this season.
When these guys rise to the top, they will be hard to beat. We’re excited to see where this program will go over the next 4-5 years.
With that being said, we have faith in our team this year. Even with our squad being young, our staff believes we have all the pieces to get the job done this year.
The key is to win games at the optimal time, during the upcoming playoffs. Till then, you work to perfect your performance every pitch, every play in the field, and every at-bat.
We really appreciate Coach Cox for finding time to sit down with the Times-Voice today and talk some baseball. The Bobcats will finish the regular season with three at home coming up May 24, May 26, and May 28 with Rowan County, Johnson Central, and Leslie County in that order. Get on down to the diamond and support your favorite team.
Note: Mr. Long is an award-winning Kentucky journalist recognized for excellence in both writing and reporting by the Kentucky Press Association.