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Coach upbeat about Eastside baseball's young squad

COVINGTON - A lack of experience does not deter Eastside coach Michael Poor's enthusiasm for his 2008 team.

Of the 17 players on the roster, two are freshmen, four are sophomores and only four were starters last season.

"We run the same plan from ninth grade to 12th, so even the guys that played ninth grade for us last year know what to expect on varsity," Poor said. "The biggest goal is to get the young guys accustomed to playing ball at this level. They're good ball players, but there's a difference between playing JV and ninth-grade ball. It's just going to be a little bit of trial by fire for some of these guys."

One thing that this year's team lacks compared to last year's team is power at the plate.

"We're not going to be the same kind of lineup hitting this year," Poor said. "We're going to utilize the speed that we have. We're exceptionally quick at just about every position. We're just going to put the ball in play - bunt, hit and run, hit balls in gaps and leg them out. These guys are just ultra scrappy. We don't have any big bombers, but that makes things better for the guys since they're not relying on the long ball. They have to claw and get themselves into the game the right way."

The Eagles pitching staff is going to consist of three starters In a regular rotation. But Poor has six other hurlers that he can count on.

"Some of the pitchers that are young aren't used to seeing some of the varsity hitters yet or at least not seeing them day in or day out," Poor said.

Sophomore Bobby Coggins, who was brought up from JV midway through last season, has the most experience. Also in the rotation are sophomore Cameron Davenport, who came up the same time as Coggins, and senior Daniel Digby.

In relief will be junior Jason Digby, sophomores Jake Casteel and Jerome Ivey and freshmen Sam Johnson and Travis Marks. Tim Roton, a junior who was a regular pitcher last year, will come in as a closer. When he's not on the mound, he'll be in the outfield.

Also in the outfield are seniors Jared Trust and Joe Thigpen and Johnson.

Poor will also be able to count on Rashad Benton, who ran track before switching to baseball this year. Senior Kyle Durand will man first base with both Digby brothers and Coggins ready to play the position when needed. Splitting time at second base will be juniors Hunter Parker and Keaton Anglin with Casteel and Marks at shortstop. Depending on who's pitching, third base will be covered by Davenport, Parker or Casteel.

Even though junior Nate Harvill is the primary catcher, the Eagles will have Thigpen as their backup.

"They're solid in the infield. They have their youth moments, but, when they forget about everything else and are just playing ball, I'd stack them up against any infield in the region," Poor said. "They just have to learn to relax and play the game the way it's suppose to be."

Manny Fils can be reached at manny.fils@newtoncitizen.com.

SideBar: At a glance

Team: Eastside baseball

Coach: Michael Poor (Second season)

Last year: 12-13 overall, 11-13 in Region 8-AAAA

Next game: Monday at Loganville, 5:30 p.m.