Reaching Goals: Bulldogs happy, but not satisfied with 10-win season

Published 9:14 pm Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Second-year Pike County head coach Taylor Barnes went into this season with a goal of reaching 10 wins. His team accomplished that goal with a win over county rival Goshen last week.

The Bulldogs finished the season with a 10-15 record.

“We had a goal of 10 wins and we hit it right on the mark,” Barnes said.

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Barnes took over in advance of the 2017 season. After winning just five games that year, the Bulldogs lost seven starters from last year including all three of their top pitchers.

The Bulldogs had just one senior and three juniors this season. The Bulldogs also had two key starters lost to injury within the first six games. Despite all of those hurdles, the Bulldogs accomplished their goal.

“I think it was a big step for us,” Barnes said. “Some guys had to fill roles that we were missing. We went into the season with a lot of competition for different roles. That competition was healthy for our program. I think we got better program-wide.”

The Bulldogs closed out the season with a split three-game series against Goshen. Although the Bulldogs fell in the series two games to one, they caught the attention of Goshen head coach Robby Kinsaul.

“They have come a long way,” Kinsaul said. “He (Barnes) is a really great guy and a baseball coach. I am really proud of him and his team for a great season. They have things going the right way.”

“That means the world,” Barnes said. “It makes me happy for my kids. They have worked hard and put in a lot of time and effort. I am glad to see them getting recognized for that. In the end, all I do is make a lineup. They go out there and play the game.”

The pitching rotation was a major question mark going in for the Bulldogs this season. They lost starters in Alex Allen, Chris Maxwell and Hunter Kilpatrick. By season’s end though, it was an area of strength.

“Coming into the year, that is where I was most worried,” Barnes said. “I knew we lost our three area starters. We came in with guys that did not have a lot of experience.”

Whit Mauldin, Chance Brunney and Clay Walker were three of the many of the pitchers that made a difference this year.

“Clay Walker had some experience in the relief role last year,” Barnes said. “I thought that helped him out a lot this year. Chance Brunney is a freshman and he didn’t start pitching until the summer. Him being a catcher, he knows what we are trying to do. We had Whit Mauldin and Tyrese Johnson and Amaghie Lampley. They all threw well for us.”

The hope is the experience the staff picked up this year will carry over into next season.

“All those guys are sophomores or younger other than Walker,” Barnes said. “We get all of them back and that is exciting.”

One area where lack of experience was evident was at the plate.

“Age-wise, you could look at our roster and say a lot of our guys should be playing JV,” Barnes said. “We saw some good arms this year. I think with experience it’s going to get better.”

The goal for the Bulldogs this season is to stick with it. Barnes believes the key is sticking with the program in the offseason.

“I spoke to my goals a lot about practice being the minimum,” Barnes said. “Are you going to work in the offseason or is this going to be a sport that you play from January to April and you’re going to put it down and not pick it up. That is going to be the difference in the program. Eventually what the difference will be between a 10-win season and competing in our area is going to be players taking ownership and working outside of practice.”