Daniel Boone’s baseball team wasn’t part of the noise before the season began, but the Trailblazers have been plenty loud since it started.
The Trailblazers are off to 10-2 start, a record that will be put to the test in Myrtle Beach, S.C., this week. And then tested further as Boone has a minimum of three Big Eight Conference games every week once it returns from the beach.
Head coach Rob Hoover said the quick start has been a pleasant surprise.
“They have surprised me a little bit,” said Hoover on Saturday. “I knew the pitching would be strong even though we don’t have anybody who throws really hard. We’ve got five or six guys who are around the plate and throw a lot of strikes.”
But without the plate presence of recent Daniel Boone teams, hitting was the unknown factor coming into the season.
“It has really been unbelievable,” said Hoover. “The hitters have done a good job of getting timely hits.”
A Boone team that averaged 35-40 homers per season in recent years is manufacturing plenty of runs. And baserunning is a big part of the process.
“We’re not hitting as many home runs, but we have stolen 30 bases,” said Hoover. “That’s probably more than we’ve had in the past two years combined. It’s a combination of not having as much power so we have to manufacture runs, and also we’ve got a little more speed. We want to be aggressive, and the guys have bought into that and done a good job.”
The lineup is anchored by hitters two through four. Zach Hancock and Taylor Smith are hitting over .400, and cleanup man Jacob Littleton is batting close to .400.
One thing that wasn’t keeping pace early was the defense. So a low staff ERA of 2.50 reveals quite a few unearned runs being allowed.
But the defense has gotten better, making things more manageable for junior Daniel Wagner, seniors Cory Jenkins and Andrew Martin, and sophomore left-hander Daniel Cox.
“We can count on all four of those guys no matter who we are playing,” said Hoover. “Jenkins is still somebody that can come in at the back end of a game, along with Cox.”
In fact, Cox already has earned saves against David Crockett and Sullivan South.
“Pitching and defense win out in the end,” said Hoover. “If the pitchers keep throwing strikes and we don’t give up one big inning — which is something that has hampered us in recent years — I believe we can challenge anybody and play with anybody.”
This week, Hoover’s team is getting a chance to travel and test some teams from well outside the area. The Trailblazers will play teams from New Jersey, West Virginia and New York, among others.
Boone played in this tournament back in 2007, going 3-0 before getting clipped in the first round of the single-elimination portion of the event.
“It’s a good tournament,” said Hoover. “You really don’t know until you get down there what the teams are like. But it’s something to remember, the kind of thing the kids will never forget.”