By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BASTIAN, Va. —
Baseball season is practically starting over for the Bland County Bears.
Veteran head coach Norman Dillow said, “We had almost three weeks where we didn’t play a game, and had several days where we didn’t have school, so we didn’t get any practice time. It’s basically just like starting the season again.”
Nasty weather has forced more postponements already this season than in the last two combined.
“We normally don’t have weather problems on this field because of the drainage, but this year it’s just been impossible,” Dillow said. “Bland County was on spring break — then on snow break.”
Until this week, the Bears had played one game, a 5-1 win against Montcalm on Mar. 19.
Now, the task is to get in 19 games before May 17. That will include the fourth annual Yo-Na Tournament that Bland County will host starting Saturday morning in Bastian.
To accomplish that task, the Bears will field a squad that has 13 potential starters. Dillow said, “That’s the first time I’ve ever had that.”
Dillow said, “We were very young last year, and we’re still comparatively young this year — but everybody’s got a lot of experience. We’re still playing a ton of 10th-graders, but they’ve all got a year’s varsity experience under their belt, and they’ve played a lot of ball in their life.”
“A school our size, you definitely have cycles where you’ve got one class that’s particularly athletic, and all your teams excel for that two- or three-year period, and then you struggle for awhile.”
“Now, we’ve got some real good athletes playing baseball, and we’re excited about the season.”
The team’s three regularly-starting seniors — John Miller, Ryan Dillow and Ryan Pritts — were on the first Bland County middle school team, Coach Dillow said, so this is their sixth year in the uniquely-integrated Bears baseball program.
Norman Dillow said the outfield is the Bears’ “best strength” this spring. “We’re very solid in the outfield with a number of kids that could start.”
They include Pritts, John Miller, Aaron Rose, Tyler Faulkner, Mason Christian, Derek Richards and Darryl Clark, who’s returned to the sport of baseball for his senior year.
At first base will be junior Andy Pauley, who’s also a designated hitter, and sophomore Zac Gwyn, who the coach said “is probably the most versatile player I’ve ever had. He can play every position on the field.”
Juniors Brian King and Tyler White “are equally talented” at second base, Dillow said. He said White “can play there, he can play short. ... He’s definitely going to get some playing time somewhere.”
Kalub Lambert will be the shortstop as well as the leadoff batter. “I’m looking for some great things out of Kalub, defensively. ... Offensively, he puts the ball in play, he’s got a great on-base percentage and he led the team in steals last year.”
Ryan Dillow holds down third base for the fourth straight year.
Norman Dillow added, “Behind the plate, I’ve got sophomore Jonah Miller, and Andy Pauley will be back there some. Jonah worked real hard over the summer. He went to several different camps. He’s trying hard to be a good catcher, and has the potential to be so.”
“He’s impressed me this year with his arm,” the coach said.
Rose tops the pitching staff. Dillow said, “Aaron is a tremendous starting pitcher. He’s got a good fastball, he’s got a decent breaking ball. He changes his location very well, and he’s got a live arm. He strikes out a lot of kids.”
“John Miller has got a strong arm and a good fastball (and) usually goes deep into games,” Dillow said. “Andy Pauley, I’m counting on to be a strong starter this year.”
“I’ve got Gwyn, Faulkner and White, who can all three come out of the bullpen with almost equal effectiveness, and give us a lot of innings — which we’re definitely going to need, with all the games we’re going to have to play in the next little bit.”
“Pitching’s going to be key to our success,” he said.
— Contact Tom Bone at