By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD, Va. —
They’re young, but at the same time they are experienced.
The 2013 Graham G-Men baseball team has only two seniors, but most of the players on the varsity roster have multiple years of high school baseball experience. Fourth year head coach Matt Dixon and the G-Men are 2-2 on the abbreviated season and Dixon is glad the weather appears to have finally broken.
“It has been a long winter, that’s for sure,” Dixon commented. “I’m so glad to see the sun shine. We’ve worked a lot on our pitching and defense. We don’t have the luxury, like some other teams around, with the indoor hitting facility. We are working on that right now and we will have that in place next year. That will be a big plus for the Graham baseball program.”
According to Dixon defense and fundamental baseball will be the trademark of this year’s G-Men team. New pitching rules in Virginia limit pitchers to 14 innings per week, and if a starter goes a full seven innings, he must stay off the mound for five days.
“It’s good for kids’ arms,” Dixon said. “Basically if a kid pitches a certain amount of innings, he has to have a certain amount of days rest, which is a good thing. It helps you develop more pitching. In the long-run it’s going to help each program develop more pitchers.”
The ace of the Graham pitching staff is junior Logan Kirk. Kirk has already tossed a no-hitter this season, delivering the goose egg against Rural Retreat.
“He’s got a lot of stuff and he’s a good pitcher,” Dixon said.
Looking at the rest of the hurlers, all underclassmen, Graham has sophomore Jacob Simpson, junior Tommy Lovell, and freshman McKinley Webb, who is also the team’s starting shortstop.
When not pitching Kirk will strap on the equipment and get behind home plate. When he is on the mound, Kirk will throw to one of two seniors on the Graham team, Corey Monninger.
Going around the infield, at first is junior Jacob Coffey, a three-year starter; Lovell, also a three-year starter is at second and the freshman Webb is at short. Simpson and Ben Carlisle will share time at third base.
Moving to the outfield, senior Spencer Sheets holds down centerfield with juniors Josh Conley in left and Jay Boone in right.
Asked to name the strength of the Graham team in 2013, Dixon had a one-word reply. Defense.
“We are going to have as good a defensive team as we’ve had in a long time and we’re going to be balanced at the plate, probably the most balanced team I’ve had hitting wise in a long time,” Dixon said. “We are going to be a fundamental team and I thin we are going to surprise some people with some good defense.”
Playing its second season in the Mountain Empire District, the G-Men will face some of the toughest competition, regardless of class, in Southwest Virginia.
“People talk about the Mountain Empire being a great basketball district, but man, baseball, Narrows and Bland (County) put a huge emphasis on baseball,” Dixon pointed out. “Galax, Grayson County, Fort Chiswell are all tough. It’s going to be a solid, solid district. Everybody I look at is either .500 or better in the district right now.
“Region C, I think, is as tough in Southwest Virginia as AA. Region C is the real deal. You’ve got Holston, Grayson County, Chilhowie.”
Tommy Lovell is the assistant coach for the G-Men and J.K. Goins leads the JV team, which according to Dixon is growing by leaps and bounds.
“The JV is 2-2,” Dixon noted. “They didn’t win a game last year. You’ve got some kids who are starting to commit. We had the largest number of kids we’ve ever had out for the program, 40-some kids came out this year. We’re down to around 30, but it’s really solid.”
Dixon wants everyone to know that when they come to a Graham game this season, there will be excitement.
“They’re a solid group of kids,” Dixon commented. “They play hard and we’ve got a motto, ‘Lots of effort, no excuses and play harder than the other team.’ I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised when they come watch Graham baseball this year.”
— Contact Bob Redd at email@example.com