Bulldogs host Ariton today

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 1, 2001

Sports Writer


After getting to the playoffs over the past three years with records just over .500, the Pike County High School Bulldogs put together one of its finest regular seasons in recent memory.

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In most seasons, last year’s 19-6 mark would have been good enough to make the postseason. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs played in one of the toughest areas in Class 4A last year with Geneva, Daleville and Dale County as they failed to make the playoffs.

Despite last year’s April heartbreak, optimism is high in Brundidge as the Bulldogs open up the 2001 regular season this afternoon when they host the highly regarded Ariton Purple Cats. The first pitch is set for 4 p.m. at the Brundidge Recreation Department Baseball Complex (with weather permitting).

While last year’s team finished the season early, Pike County head coach Fred Holland said winning 19 games in one season was a step in the right direction for the Bulldogs.

"I was disappointed we didn’t make the playoffs, but I knew coming into this season we had a lot of guys coming back ," Holland said. "My expectations were high last year and we missed out by one game. But I was still proud of our guys for what we did last year playing lots of tough teams. We just didn’t win enough (area) games."

Going into the new season, Holland said he really likes the attitude of his young squad because their strong will and desire to get better each day.

"I’ve been very pleased with the workout because the guys are committed to winning by the way they support one another sharing the same common goal because they want to win," Holland said. "Our numbers are down a little bit from last year, but I feel like the quality is there."

Seven out of eight position players from last year return led by senior center fielder Josh Price. Price, who is one of only two seniors on this year’s team, hit .408 with a team high seven home runs and 35 runs batted in this season. Holland said he really likes the leadership Price has shown during the preseason.

"He’s a kid who has been in our program for a long time," Holland said. "He leads by example and shows the younger kids how things should get done. He covers a lot of ground and makes a lot of our calls in the outfield."

The lone other outfielder returning is freshman Elijah Daniels. Daniels, who batted .270 with three home runs and 20 RBIs, started last year as an eighth grader because of his decent speed to cover the corner outfields and his ability to be interchangeable.

Among the players trying out for the other starting outfield position include eighth graders Josh Daniels and DaKari Green along with sophomore Jeremy Price.

One of the major strengths for the Bulldogs coming into this season is the infield as all five players return from last year. Sophomore shortstop Jimmy Evans returns after hitting .275 and driving in 15 runs in a limited offensive role. Holland said Evans has shown exceptional leadership skills for a 10th grader. Evans is also a good fielder who possesses a very good arm.

Freshman third baseman Chris Nickson continues to improve and has shown an eagerness to learn for the Bulldogs. Nickson, who is also a part time catcher, batted .280 and stole 28 bases while driving in 20 runs in ’00.

Sophomore first baseman Dee Price returns at first base after being used as a platoon player last year. Price is also expected to be used as a designated hitter for Holland this spring after driving in 22 runs as a ninth grader.

Another sophomore returns to the infield in second baseman Anthony Kilpatrick. Holland said Kilpatrick has really shown vast improvements from a defensive standpoint during February tryouts.

"Anthony has improved dramatically at his position," Holland said. "He’s really gotten better at turning the double play. He doesn’t hit with a lot of power, but he gets the job done on the field."

The lone other senior returning to the Bulldogs this season is catcher Brian Kilpatrick. Kilpatrick led the Bulldogs at the plate with a .415 average while driving in 30 runs. However, Holland said Kilpatrick is a bigger asset in the field helping Pike County’s young infield.

"Brian is a good leader because he makes a lot of signal calls and encourages players for us," Holland said. "He has an above average arm and does a great job of handling pitchers and making it easier for them. He communicates with the pitchers on the mound and in the bullpen warming up."

Among the reserve infielders who are expected to see playing time include Daniels (when not playing outfield) and sophomore first baseman J.J. Burkett.

All four returning starting pitchers return this season to the rotation which include Brian and Anthony Kilpatrick, Evans and Nickson. While he’s currently concerned about the depth in the pitching staff, Holland said he’s hoping to develop a bullpen during the regular season."

The Bulldogs will drop to 3A this season. Pike County will be in the area with Luverne and Elba who made the state playoffs last year. Pike County will play a tough schedule this season which include a rematch with Ariton at the end of the regular season in April along with Goshen, Carroll-Ozark, Montgomery Academy and Eufaula. In addition, Holland said PCHS will return to the prestigious Thomasville Tournament during Spring Break in late March.

Holland said he hopes playing a tough schedule will benefit the Bulldogs when they open up area play on Thursday, March 22 at Luverne.

After a road game at Barbour County Friday, the Bulldogs return home on Tuesday when they host Goshen at 3:30 p.m. in Brundidge.