Outlook: The Rebels missed the regional last year and now must replace five senior starters, and they were dealt a blow last weekend when sophomore third baseman-pitcher Ben Carter suffered ligament damage in his elbow that will cause him to miss the entire season. Meanwhile, a roster of 32 players includes only two seniors, Cooper and left fielder Gary Allen, but also features a strong junior class and 16 sophomores. Eastern Kentucky signee Cooper leads the pitching staff, coming off a strong summer in which he increased his velocity to 88 to 90 mph. Payne, Morris, juniors Kyle Bottoms and Mackenzie Glidewell and freshman Blake Perry also will pitch. Payne is a three-year starter who joins Morris in the middle infield. The Rebels can produce at the plate but lack power, more so with Carter out.
Coach's comment: "We've basically got a young team, but I feel good about them. I think we'll be pretty solid. We've got some speed and some power in the middle of the lineup. I feel pretty good about our guys. We've got a lot of good young players right now that are pushing each other every day in practice."
Coach: John Powell
2006 record: 20-11
Top returnees: Trenton Claunch, Fr., SS-P; Jordan Darland, Sr., SS-P; Daniel Loane, Sr., C-LF; Evan Mobley, Sr., 3B-P; Ian Powell, So., 1B-OF; Seth Trayner, Jr., C-1B-3B.
Key statistics: The Bulldogs set a school record for victories last season and broke most of the school's offensive records. They scored in double figures 13 times, and Loane, who is being recruited by Berea, led the offense at .450 last season.
Outlook: The Bulldogs have some work to do if they are to replicate the success of last year, the school's best season ever. The roster is stacked with versatile players who can play multiple positions, including all three seniors. There isn't much experience in the pitching ranks. Any of the seniors could pitch, but only Darland has much experience; Claunch also will pitch, and up to seven other underclassmen might throw occasionally. Darland and Mobley will often hold down the left side of the infield at shortstop and third base, and Loane will catch or play left field when he isn't pitching. Tyler Darland also could shore up the middle infield. Powell said Burgin's power production has been down in the preseason, but so has the number of strikeouts.
Coach's comment: "We've got guys that in any one game could play three positions. We're a little more versatile than I thought we would be. By leaps and bounds, we'll be a lot better by the end of the season. And most of the kids we have now have been through our middle school program (which is in its fifth year). That has really helped with what I see from last year to this year."
Coach: Tim Ellis
2006 record: 4-22
Top returnees: Donald Doss, Sr., 1B; Jared Howard, Sr., OF; Marcus Patterson, Sr., P-SS-OF; Shannon Wethington, Jr. OF-P.
Key statistics: Casey gave up runs in bunches early in the season, as the Rebels allowed 10 or more in seven of their first nine games but only three more times after that. And they struggled to score all year long, averaging 3.9 runs and being shut out eight times. Patterson's average dipped by 171 points from .451 as a sophomore to .280 as a junior.
Outlook: Ellis, a second-year teacher at Phillips Elementary, is the only new coach in the area, replacing longtime coach Jimmy Brown. He and new assistant Neal King inherit a team that struggled to win last season and could struggle to get people out this season. The only two players who were being counted on to pitch regularly are injured: Patrick Hatter will miss the season and Josh Morgan is expected to return. Several pitchers might be called on to throw a couple of innings each, and the list includes Patterson, Howard and Shannon Wethington.
Coach's comment: "We've got a bunch of great boys. Our core senior group and our returning juniors are just great, and we've got a bunch of good guys who are willing to work hard. They've all been willing to catch or pitch or whatever. I've got a lot of good all-around athletes. We don't have a set lineup, but we have 16 or 17 guys who are willing to play any position."
Coach: Paul Morse
2006 record: 31-8
Top returnees: Jacob Bryant, Sr., IF-OF; Matt Grimes, P-IF; John Raines, Sr., OF; Nate Uslin, Sr., P-IF; Lance White, Sr. P; Rich Witten, Sr., P-SS.