Charles Henderson to rely on veteran players early in season

Published 10:38 pm Monday, February 10, 2014

About 365 days ago, Derek Irons and his Charles Henderson Trojans were in the process of fine-tuning things in preparation for their season opener in what turned out to be a state championship season.

But the 2014 Trojans aren’t there yet.

Irons said the team has faced quite a bit more adversity this preseason, than last.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“We have had a couple of injuries, but nothing major,” said Irons. “The weather has also hurt us some, but we know we can’t control that. It’s up to us to make the best of each day, whether that be on the field, inside the facility or wherever.”

While the Trojans will be without the services of former All-Area Players Tripp Blackmon, Joey Denison and Houston Mabray, Irons feels the core of veteran players returning will help the team a lot early during its title defense.

Irons pointed to past success of multi-sport athletes Xavius Burden, John Johnson and Austin Ingram, as well as baseball stars Chase Smartt and Hunter Baggett, as things that will help the Trojans.

“Xa, John and Austin have played at the highest level of high school sports in two different spots in the past few months,” said Irons. “The know how to win, and that is something that you can’t see a stat of. It just comes naturally. You combine those guys with our baseball guys that won last year, and you have a good mix of winners. They will help bring the younger guys along faster. I love the experience that this group brings to the table.”

The Trojans will have to find new players to fill holes at first, second and third base, right field and the first two spots in the pitching rotation.

While Irons and staff are yet to set a lineup, batting order or rotation, he feels the amount of competition he has seen in preseason practice is a good indicator of the talent on the field.

“I am very confident that we have guys that can get the job done,” said Irons. “It is just a matter of sitting down and finding the best spot in the lineup for everyone. We are still trying to nail down how we are going to do things.”

Irons isn’t worried about specific players in specific positions currently, as he feels the early-season games come down to the basics of baseball.

“We need to worry about dominating the average play, having good at-bats and throwing strikes,” said Irons. “It doesn’t sound real exciting, but those three things are what win ball games early. That has been our focus so far, and honestly will continue to do so throughout the year.”

Charles Henderson begins their title defense Monday with a split double header against Elba and Dothan at Lurleen B. Wallace Community College in Andalusia.