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Pioneer baseball roster set
Phillip King - Bottoms.jpg
Phillip King enters his second season as Warren County High School baseball coach. His inaugural year was cut short after four games due to COVID-19.

The Great American Pastime is a great way to regain a sense of normalcy during our days of uncertainty.

Along those lines, Warren County High School baseball coach Phillip King and his staff held tryouts June 17-18 and announced the roster for the 2020-21 team on Tuesday.

The squad features 14 seniors and a well-rounded lineup that includes depth at every position and what’s expected to be a solid pitching rotation.

 “I like our team,” said coach King. “Obviously you can do the math and see we have 14 seniors and there are only nine positions on the field so there is going to be competition. I think it’s a positive thing when you have players pushing each other. It’s good to have that competition and then if someone were to get sick or miss a game due to injury, we can run that next guy in there and we won’t miss a thing.”

The Pioneers were only able to play four games last year before COVID-19 canceled school and the spring sports season. But even in that short time the Pioneers were able to accumulate memories, including a combined no-hitter from Heath Kuykendall (now graduated), Braden Bottoms and Westen Wilson.

The shortened season robbed this group of rising seniors of most of their junior year of baseball. It continues to have an impact because the traditionally hectic summer baseball schedule has also been halted.

“It’s hurt everybody across the board,” said coach King. “We really miss the at-bats we could have accumulated over the course of a season and the pitchers miss the starts they could have had on the mound. There’s no way to replicate a game scenario where a pitcher gets into trouble and figures out a way to work out of it.”

Even though the Pioneers only played four games last year, King says there were only two players on the roster who didn’t get game experience. They were both pitchers waiting for their turn to throw.

Nearly every member of the senior class has pitching experience and coach King says he will be looking to see who develops the right mindset.

“What you want is a guy who gets the ball and says, ‘I’m going right at you. That’s my plate,’” said King.

In addition to his seniors, King says he’s excited about juniors and sophomores being able to step in and contribute.

The first week of the TSSAA dead period just ended and the second week is about to start. Teams will be able to get back to work after the Fourth of July and King says the Pioneers will not waste time.

“We’ll work on our strength and conditioning and also work on our throwing program,” said King. “The throwing program helps to increase velocity, but it also helps do things to prevent future injury. That’s important to me because these kids have such a small window to play ball and I hate to see them miss time because they’re hurt.”