CONYERS - If there's one thing a baseball team can never have enough of, it's pitching. And as Rockdale Post 77's American Legion team opens its summer season at 7 p.m. tonight against Canton at Henson-Carr Field, the team boasts a deep pitching staff that should keep the team competitive well into the summer.
Staff ace Nathan Fawbush, who went 7-0 with a 1.47 ERA in 10 appearances for Walters Community College (Tenn.), returns for his second season of legion ball. He's not alone: J.C. Dunagan (Toccoa Falls College), Kale Blackshear, Micah Jones and Josh Stevenson (recent Gordon College commitment) are all front-line pitchers.
"We're looking for big things this summer (out of Fawbush)," coach Jack Murphy said. "We think pitching-wise that we're in pretty good shape."
The defense is also expected to be solid, especially up the middle. Returning catcher Chris Jackson, shortstop Josh Flippen, second baseman Marcus Smith and center fielder Joseph Lester (Heritage High School) form an experienced foursome, that coupled with the expected pitching depth, should make Rockdale a force when it's in the field.
"We think we're going to be good with our pitching and our defense," Murphy said. "(And) we think we're strong at the catching position, we know we're strong at short and second and with Joseph in center ... we're strong where we need to be, up the middle."
Murphy is concerned about the offense and the lack of a true home run threat in the lineup. But Rockdale shouldn't have any problems putting the ball in play, thanks to several contact guys like Lester and Flippen. Plus, with the kind of pitching Murphy is hoping to have, it may not matter.
"We're concerned about offense; I don't think we have that big home run hitter that you look for," Murphy said. "We do have a good many experienced players coming back and they've been through this (and) we think we'll be competitive and if our pitching holds up we can win some things."
Kurt Aschermann Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.