After just missing out on the playoffs last season, the Eastside Eagles baseball team looks to take the next step with a large senior class.
The Eagles finished the 2023 season with a 16-12 record while finishing fifth in Region 8-AAAAA with a 4-8 record.
With a big senior class returning in 2024, head coach Cody Walker feels the upperclassmen will be the strength for the team.
“There are nine seniors, it is a big senior class,” Walker said. “Some of them did not get much playing time last year, but the growth from the junior class to the senior class has been one of the biggest parts [of the offseason].”
One bright area that Walker spoke about was the team’s activity in fall ball.
With multiple players participating in fall ball tournaments, Walker noted the contrast from a year ago.
“Last offseason, we did fall ball but we were unable to get any tournaments early,” Walker said. “This year in fall ball, our seniors played two or three tournaments with their fall ball coach. They were able to get a lot more work in.”
With the extra work, Walker feels that the health of the arms in the rotation are in a good spot ahead of the season.
As far as individuals in the rotation, Walker highlighted juniors Brandon Ellis, Colton Fincher and Blake Hughes.
“Two of our main ones [pitchers] right now are Brandon Ellis and Colton Fincher. It looks like those are our two main guys,” Walker said. “Another one who is a senior this year that has made good strides is Blake Hughes, [who pitches] from the left side. He threw a little bit last year and every outing was good, but he has added some velocity to it and is a lot more accurate than he was last year. He is one of those new arms that gets a lot of work on the mound.”
When assessing his starting lineup Walker tabbed junior Braydon Smith as Eastside’s leadoff man going into the year.
Going down the lineup, Fincher and senior Dawson Petree are viewed as the two power hitters for the Eagles, according to Walker.
Outside of Fincher and Petree, Walker foresees the team relying on small ball.
“We don’t have a whole lot of power, so small ball will have to be a big part of it,” Walker said. “Speed wise, we were better this year than we were last year. It will be more so contact and not striking out as two things for us to focus on.”
With the Eagles looking to finish higher than fifth place, Walker sees plate approach and mistakes in the field as two areas that will make or break the team in region play.
“Better at-bats at the plate,” Walker said. “I told them, ‘With our region, our margin of error is slim to none.’ In the field, there has to be little to no errors. In our scrimmage, we had a few errors and we let the game get away from us just because that is how quick the game can go.”
The Eagles will open the season at home against Morgan County on Wednesday, Feb. 14.