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Miners head to Jonesboro for baseball tourney

March 24, 2011

Bauxite Miner Ryan Weng throws a pitch during a game earlier this season. The Miners head to Jonesboro today to play in the Extra Innings Spring Classic, which runs through Saturday. BOB MCADORY/Special to the Courier

Today the Bauxite Miners head to Jonesboro to play in the Extra Innings Spring Classic, which runs through Saturday.

While there, head coach Michael Mattox said the Miners need to cut back defensive errors and improve batting at the end of the lineup.

“I’m looking forward to getting a lot better,” he said. “We’ll be playing some good teams this weekend, and it’llm ake us better for when we start conference play next week.”

Bauxite (6-3) plays Jonesboro Westside at noon today. If the Miners win, they play again at 2:30 p.m. If they lose, they play at 5 p.m. Either way, the Miners will play more games on Friday, and will likely play Saturday, too, Mattox said.

“Westside hasn’t lost his year,” he said. “We came back from behind and beat them last year. I’m sure they’re going to be ready for us this year.”

Overall, Mattox said his squad is “still a little sloppy on defense.”

“But we’ve had a lot of improvement since our first game. We’re getting better every time we play, which is good.
“Mainly my concern is our defense, and the bottom part of the lineup.”

Mattox said who fills the six-through-nine slots in the lineup “depends on who’s pitching,” but has regularly included sophomores Tyler Hill, Zach Pratt and Chris Revas, as well as junior Dylan Oliver.

“We’ve got a lot of young guys who’ll be down there, especially our outfielders,” he said.

When in the lineup, Mattox said Oliver is “usually in the six-hole.”

“He’s the most experienced out of the four,” he said. “He can bunt real well and get the ball into play.”

The first five hitters of the lineup have had to carry the load for the Miners offensively.

Leading off is senior Tanner Bates, who’s batting more than .500 and offers “speed on the bases,” Mattox said.

“He’s seen a lot of at-bats,” he said. “If he can keep it going, he’s looking to have a good year.”

Senior Briar Sample bats second and left-handed. “He can bunt the ball pretty well, which is why I like to have him in that two-hole behind Tanner,” Mattox said.
“He has a good average himself, so a lot of the time I just let him hit away.”

Catcher Tyler Willis, a sophomore, will be batting third in the lineup this week. Mattox said, “He’s come a long way and worked a lot in the offseason.”

Mattox said Willis made some minor changes to his swing, which was “longer” last year, but has been “shortened up.”

“He hits the ball hard up the middle, which is exactly what we want,” Mattox said. “He hit his first home run against White Hall, and it was opposite field, which should tell you something.”

Senior Matt Freelin bats cleanup and plays first base, and also serves as the backup catcher and designated hitter from time to time. “He’s done a good job,” Mattox said.

Senior Austin Harris, who plays “everywhere,” bats fifth and has played mostly outfield since junior Hunter Wray suffered a shoulder injury.

“I really like him in the outfield, when we can have him out there,” Mattox said. “It opens up some spots in the infield for the other guys who are hitting the ball well.”

The Miners’ one silver lining on defense is that Mattox feels he has figured out his top-three pitchers for the season: junior Ryan Weng, Sample and sophmore Chris Revas.

Mattox said Weng has a “fast tempo, which keeps the game moving.”

“He throws a lot of strikes, and he hits his spots really well. He has a good pickoff move, too.”

He said Sample is “similiar” to Weng on the mound.

“He’s also up-tempo, which we like. He has a really good slider, and it’s tough for guys to hit.

“Our kids are real confident behind him. He’s really emerged as a leader. At the plate, he hits the ball well, and that opens up some options in our lineup.”

Mattox said Revas “doesn’t throw real hard, but he hits the spots, and he keeps it down.”

He said, “When things are tough behind him, defensively, he doesn’t quit; he keeps throwing strikes and doesn’t get down on himself.”

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