By Rick Sheek
Hampton’s middle school baseball team is off to a nice 3-1 start, yet there are few upperclassmen.
“We’re really young, but we’re talented,” Hampton coach Greg VanTassell said on Tuesday morning. “We’ve got two or three eighth-graders in the starting lineup, depending on the game we’re playing. We’ve got a lot of seventh and sixth graders, but we’re coming along.”
Austin Vines, an eighth-grader, heads the rotation.
“We don’t really have an ace,” VanTassell said. “We’re young in pitching. Right now we’re deciding on who our ace is.”
Also in the rotation are seventh-graders Chris Holtsclaw and Wyatt Lyons, as well as sixth-graders Drew Owens and Gavin Hardin.
“We’ve got a lot of depth, but we’ve got a lot of youth there,” VanTassell said. “We’ve got a lot of pitchers we’re trying to get in. None are able to go more than three or four innings, especially being young. Austin’s really the only one who can go more than about four innings.”
At catcher is Dalton Blair. Vines will also see time behind the plate.
The first basemen are Jacob Byrd and Hardin. At second are Drew Owens and Brenden Ailport.
Chris Holtsclaw is the shortstop. Backing him up are Owens, Ailport and Vines.
Third base will be manned by Vines and Byrd. The outfield consists of Wyatt Lyons (center), John Cole, David Fleenor and Ethan Markland.
The Junior Bulldogs have defeated Vance, T.A. Dugger and Cloudland. The defeat was at the hands of Grandview.
“We’re just learning how to play right now,” VanTassell said. “We’ve been giving up a lot of runs early in games, and coming back to win. We’ve got to work on that.”
The coach stresses the potential for further success is there for this bunch.
“If we can grow up, we can contend for the conference title — if we can grow up,” said VanTassell, giving his best Herman Boone impersonation. “If the pitching comes around, but we’ve got to limit errors. Defensively, we’ve got to improve.”
The high school program, struggling to rebuild and get on a winning track, obviously needs the feeder program to blossom. And the coach believes that is possible.
“It’s one of those years,” VanTassell said. “We’ve got some ability, but they’re just young kids and they make some mistakes here and there. We can’t do that against teams better than us, and we can’t do that against stronger teams.”