Gaining momentum: Trojans hitting their stride after poor 2018 season
Published 8:34 pm Monday, March 25, 2019
After getting off an unexpectedly slow start in 2018, Charles Henderson hired Matt Whitton as their new head coach. One year later, the Trojans are right back in contention in Class 5A.
The Trojans stormed into spring break with a 15-4 overall record and were ranked No. 3 in the latest state rankings.
Whitton didn’t have any time to work with his new crop of players a season ago, being placed right in the middle of a tough stretch for the team. In his first full offseason, Whitton and the Trojans got to work building and shaping what they hope may be Charles Henderson’s next winning baseball team.
“We had a really good offseason,” Whitton said. “We spent more time with them in the fall. We get two hours a week with each player. It really kind of set the tone for what we wanted to do in January. We hit the ground running on day one and I felt like we were ahead of schedule.”
The Trojans have had their fair share of production from their pitchers as well as their lineup this season and it has translated to wins.
“They key for us so far has been our pitching,” Whitton said. “Those guys have kept us in a lot of ball games where we haven’t really swung the bat well. Offensively, we are starting to play a little bit better. (The key is whether we can) continue to pitch it the way we pitched it the first couple of weeks and continue to get better offensively.”
The Trojans entered the season with eight seniors on their roster and four juniors. After a dismal season a year ago, the same crop of players has turned the corner and appear to have righted the ship.
“We have spent a lot of time together over the last eight or nine months,” Whitton said. “They are starting to get more comfortable with who I am as a coach. A lot of those guys have another year of experience under their belt. Our guys are starting to believe in what we are doing.”
The Trojans picked up key wins earlier this season against Saraland and Prattville, wins that Whitton believes gave his players some needed confidence.
“It kind of turned the tables for us,” Whitton said. “We preached all year about believing in who we are and what we do. We took a loss two days before that and didn’t play very well. We came in Friday night and got back to work. We got on the bus and played Saturday and we did everything textbook. We pitched it well and we got the hit when we needed it. That goes to show you what we can do when everybody locks in.”
After a down 2018, the excitement of the Trojan fan base has also returned to Hogan’s Hole on a nightly basis and coach Whitton and the Trojan team has taken notice.
“You go to a game and there are a lot more people there,” Whitton said. “When you win, people come watch you. When you’re not winning, it’s hard to put people in the seats. Our goal is to put a good product on the field every time we go out there. Winning 12 in a row kind of changes things for the whole town. Everybody is like ‘Oh man, they are getting back to where Charles Henderson used to be.’”
The Trojans are hitting right at .300 as a team and it’s been a number that has been on the incline over the last handful of weeks.
Brock Huner has been near the top of the hitting charts for the Trojans. He is currently batting around .470 for the Trojans according to Whitton and, more importantly, it seems like he is his getting the big hits when the Trojans have needed it the most.
“It seems like time to time again he comes up with a clutch base hit,” Whitton said. “Right now, if we had to pick an offensive MVP, I don’t know if we could pick one. We’ve got six or seven guys that are really swinging well. It’s like who do you pitch to? Everybody in our lineup has the capability of driving in the big run when we need it.”
The Trojans have been able to build depth in the pitching staff this season. The Trojans currently have their pitching staff set up so that Walker Stallworth will pitch game one in an area series, followed by Brock Huner and Daryl Lee. In the bullpen, the Trojans have pitchers that include Anthony Gurba, Jackson Giles, Caden Bryan, J.B. Sanders, Jaylen Deveridge, Press Jefcoat and Brady Huner.
“I feel like we have a little depth in the bullpen,” Whitton said. “Our goal for our starters is to give us five quality innings. We feel pretty confident in a three-game set that if our starters can do their job and keep us in the game through five innings, we have enough arms in the bullpen to get us another win.”
The Trojans will compete in the Fort Payne Spring Break Tournament beginning on Thursday.