From left, members of the Lancaster High School varsity baseball team are (front row) Demetrick Lee, Kyle Thomas, Taylor Woolard, Bradley Hudson and Daniel Thomas; (next row) Jordan Hodges, Jonathan Seal, Josh Moore, Colton Hayden, William Abbott and Kedrick Lee. Photo by Lisa Hinton-Valdrighi
Despite that, said Saunders, "The team is still young."
Nine players return from last year's team, which struggled through a 1-18 season, the worst for the two coaches since taking over the program seven years ago.
Lancaster lost two to graduation in Joel Hudnall and Sammy Somers.
"We return our whole pitching staff and our whole infield, all of our key positions," said Saunders, "but we'll miss the offense from Joel and Sammy and miss their leadership for sure."
Back to lead the pitching staff is senior Colton Hayden and sophomore Taylor Woolard. Hayden suffered a major leg and ankle injury halfway through last season and "it's great to have him back," said Saunders. "Our strengths will be our pitching staff and leadership in our catcher."
Senior Kedrick Lee returns to play behind the plate.
"We need to work on our defense overall and our execution, especially during the times when things get tense," said Saunders. "We've talked a lot this year about not turning one mistake into two. It's okay to make an error but don't follow it up with another error. Fix it as soon as possible."
Playing in the infield this year will be sophomore first baseman Jordan Hodges, senior second baseman William Abbott, sophomore shortstop Daniel Thomas and junior third baseman Josh Moore. Moore is also on the pitching staff.
Freshman Kyle Thomas will also get time at third base.
Senior Bradley Hudson is a utility player and will get time at various positions.
Playing in the outfield will be sophomore Jonathan Seal, senior Jovonte Smith and Woolard. Smith played JV baseball as a freshman and returns to the program after a two-year break. "He brings a lot of speed and a lot of athleticism to the team," said Saunders, whose squad of 11 is the smallest he's had since coaching at LHS.
A season opener against West Point on March 12 was cancelled because of weather and will not be rescheduled. Instead, the Devils open the season tomorrow, March 15, at the Deltaville Ballpark against Middlesex at 7 p.m.
Coach Dave Cunningham and his 14-member JV team are also scheduled to open their season tomorrow against Middlesex in Deltaville at 5 p.m.
Cunningham has a pitching staff of five including freshmen Mathew Abbott, Dillon Rose, Grant Long and Jay Bryant and sophomore Caleb Gordon. Gordon is somewhat of a utility player and will see playing time in both the infield and outfield when he's not on the mound.
Abbott will play in the outfield when not pitching along with Long, freshmen Jamie Coates and Trevon Henderson and sophomore Noah Hook.
Seeing time in the infield will be freshmen Rose, Bryant, Spencer Hook, Drew Smith, Marcus Vickers, Trevor Smith and Jamerson Robertson. Eighth-grader Devin Smith will catch.
"I have four key returners, but a lot of new guys," said Cunningham, who led last year's team to an 8-8 overall record. "As my players are developing, the varsity team is taking them, so I've lost some players with experience.
The Red Devils' home games will be played at Dreamfields near Kilmarnock.
March 15 Middlesex at Deltaville Ballpark (7 p.m.)
March 19 at Mathews (5 p.m.)
March 23 Middlesex (7 p.m.)
Marchh 26 West Point (5 p.m.)
March 28 Chincoteague at Nandua High School (4 p.m.)
March 29 at Nandua (11 a.m.)
April 5-6 Lancaster Tournament
April 8 at Langley (5 p.m.)
April 11 at Rappahannock (7 p.m.)
April 16 Essex, 5 p.m.
April 18 at Colonial Beach (5 p.m.)
April 23 Washington & Lee (5 p.m.)
April 26 at Northumberland (7 p.m.)
April 30 Rappahannock (7 p.m.)
May 2 at Essex (5 p.m.)
May 7 Colonial Beach (5 p.m.)
May 9 at Washington & Lee (5 p.m.)
May 14 Northumberland (7 p.m.)
(JV games, 5 p.m.)
March 15 Middlesex at Deltaville Ballpark
March 19 Mathews
March 23 Middlesex
March 26 at West Point
April 9 at Mathews
April 11 Rappahannock
April 16 at Essex
April 18 Colonial Beach
April 23 at Washington & Lee
April 26 at Northumberland
April 30 Rappahannock
May 2 Essex
May 7 at Colonial Beach
May 9 Washington & Lee
May 14 Northumberland