Patriots building a foundation

Published 3:00 am Thursday, April 28, 2016

As the Pike Patriots started gearing up for the 2016 season, the message from head coach Allen Ponder was “let’s go further than we did last year.”

After finishing the year with a 27-12 record, the Patriots advanced to the second round of the AISA Class 3A state playoffs.

“I thought we had a great season,” Ponder said. “Our boys played above their head at times. We won some big games that we would have struggled to win last year. Although it didn’t end the way we wanted it to end, I felt like we had a very successful season.”

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The Patriots entered the season knowing they had to produce runs by playing small ball. As the season went along the Patriots offense started to accomplish those goals.

“We did exactly what I expected,” Ponder said. “We understood that we were going to have to be a small ball team and that we didn’t have the guys who could hit the ball out of the ballpark, and that’s fine. The boys got better as the year went along. We struggled early, but we got to the end of the season where we could play and manufacture runs about as well as I expected.”

To play small you have to be able to rely on your pitching staff. The Patriots offered a well-balanced mix of youth and experience on the pitching mound.

“We threw the ball well this year,” Ponder said. “We had a good mixture of younger and older guys. We didn’t have any plus velocity guys. We had to be good at working the ball in and out and be able to throw breaking balls. By the end of the year we were good at filling up the zone.”

The Patriots send goodbye to seven seniors this year: Adam Grice, Justin Helms, Jarrett Jordan, Hayes Lee, Bailey Renfroe, Murphy Renfroe and Kiegan Simmons.

“I have really enjoyed this senior class,” Ponder said. “This senior class was fun to come to work to every day. They made the game fun. We enjoyed practice and the games were fun to us. They came to work every day with a work hard mentality and they got better as the year went on. They understand it was their time to leave their mark on the program and they did a good job doing that.”

Now, Ponder is encouraging the remaining players to spend the summer playing ball.

“They just need to play,” Ponder said. “We have a lot of guys that play baseball and jump right into football. We stressed the importance of playing summer ball and working on their skills.”