Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

April 13, 2013

Montcalm showing improvement on the diamond

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — It’s a good thing for the Montcalm Generals baseball team that the area’s top baseball tournaments, the Yo-Na and the Coppinger, are not scheduled head-to-head this year.

The Generals are deploying their troops in both.

Montcalm played in Bastian, Va., on Saturday in day one of the Yo-Na, ending a stretch of six games in six days. The Generals return to Bland County for tournament games on Tuesday and Thursday.

Their first Coppinger game follows on Friday evening, when Montcalm takes on Bluefield at Bowen Field. That’s followed the next day by the Yo-Na’s final rounds back in Bastian.

Then, if Montcalm survives the first round of the Coppinger, there will be more single-elimination action for the Generals at Bowen Field.

That’s a lot of baseball. Head coach Jimmy Redmond isn’t complaining.

“It’s a privilege to do that,” said Montcalm’s fourth-year coach.

Though the complete history of baseball at Montcalm High has so far proven impossible to compile, Redmond said about the 40-year-old Coppinger tournament, “I don’t know if they’ve ever been in it.”

This year’s Montcalm team has matured from their start as a group of freshmen that Redmond put on the field four years ago.

“They’ve been getting experience,” he said. “In pressure situations, they pretty much know how to react.”

“We’ve got a good group of seniors. They’ve got kind of an understanding of what they’re supposed to do, how they’re expected to play the game.”

The trust of the coach in his players goes both ways. “They trust me, too,” he said.

With the number of games that remain between now and May 2, he said, “You’ve got to have pretty good pitching.”

That took a hit last Monday when senior pitcher Steven Whitteker hurt his knee. Because of the twisting motion to a knee during a pitch, Redmond said, “As far as his pitching goes, he’s probably done. We’ll wait and see.”

“That was really upsetting. He’s a really good ballplayer, and he’s a senior.” The coach added, though, that he’s gotten medical advice that “he could play if he wears a brace.”

Senior Aaron Presley is the No. 1 pitcher and Josh Clower, another senior, was the No. 3 starter when Whitteker was in the rotation.

“John Casto, who usually plays shortstop, threw four innings and beat Meadow Bridge,” Redmond said. “Brady Brown, a sophomore, is getting a little bit of work. Jason Grose throws some every now and then.”

“Other than that, it’s ‘Get in there and throw some strikes,’ ” the coach said.

Other seniors on the team are left fielder Seth Roberts and Matt Pennington, who is playing his first year of high school baseball. “He’s a good athlete,” Redmond said.

Clower and Dakota Conley have played some in center field, while right fielders include Travis Pointer and Hunter Rose.

Redmond said, “Seth and Josh, out in the outfield, are good at tracking down balls. Seth has thrown (opposing base-runners) out from the outfield.”

Sophomore catcher Tyler Poe has shown that he’s “hustling, and blocking balls really well,” Redmond said. Presley, who played catcher for several years, and has been working with Poe.

The infield personnel “flip-flop” depending on who’s pitching.

Presley is often positioned at third base, or sometimes at shortstop when Casto is not patrolling that piece of real estate. Dakota Lanter and Pennington have seen time at second base; Pennington can also play third.

Whitteker and Dustin Williams anchor the first base position.

Casto leads off the batting order. “He’s got a pretty high average,” Redmond said. “Seth (Roberts) and Aaron Presley have been hitting pretty good.”

In four of their first eight games, the Generals have scored 14 or more runs.

“We’re putting a bunch of runs up,” Redmond said. “We had some slugfests. You’ve got to win games like that.”

“We’re hitting the ball, but we’ve got to do a little better (with consistency) than we have been,” he said.

The week of six straight games was wearing on the team by Thursday of last week.

Redmond said that afternoon, “They’re a little tired. It’s not like professional baseball. ... Just being on the bus, getting home at 11 or 12 midnight, then coming to school the next morning.”

To cope with the demands, he said, “We stress to them that they take care of themselves, particularly their arms. We really have got to watch how they warm up when they go out there.”

“We keep track of their innings,” he said about his pitchers. “We always ask how they feel when they go out to pitch. You’ve got to go by the pitching rules — and try not to wear them out.”

— Contact Tom Bone at