Hill has coached the Bears for the last 6 seasons, and he says he is very hopeful about this upcoming season. The Bears have a plethora of young talent, mixed with some returning veterans, which could possibly prove to be a winning mixture for the Bears this year. When asked about the underclassmen this year, Coach says “we will have 4 freshmen who will have big roles on our team. Jake Chandler, Brock Lines, Bryson Kash and Brandon Hammett.” There is a lot for Butler faithful's to look forward to this year, but according to Hill, “youth and athleticism” are two things that should really draw Bears fans to the diamond this year. Hill goes on to say, “There may be games where we have as many as 7 starters in the game who are underclassmen.” With such young talent, you can expect the Bears to only get better as the season goes on, and hopefully develop into a team that can be a staple for the next few years, “We should only get better the more reps that we get not only this year, but moving forward,” Hill says.
The youth can be seen as both a blessing and a curse, when asked what the Bears biggest hurdle this season will be, Hill states, “Lots of guys will be getting their first taste of varsity baseball.” While the youthfulness of the Bears may prove frustrating at times as the underclassmen adjust to varsity action, the talent these younger ballplayers possess should prove more beneficial than not.
With the incoming flux of young talent, the Bears are also able to add some returning players that are going to be able to contribute in major ways as well. Offensively and on the mound, the Bears are going to be seeing some familiar faces that are going to prove helpful. When asked about the team’s power hitters, Hill says, “We have many returning players that I believe will take a big step forward at the plate this year. Maddox was our team leader in nearly every offensive category a year ago and he is still improving. Eli Cox was a fixture in the middle of the lineup as a Freshman and I expect that he will see a large increase in his number of extra base hits this season. Seniors Zayn Carson and Peyton Jackson are also hitters we plan on taking strides toward helping lead our offensive attack.”
The experienced players for the Bears are not only going to help lead the way at the plate, but on the mound as well. When asked about what the Bears strong suit this year is going to be, he says that it is hard to gauge just yet, but he believes that the Bears pitching depth this year will be better than what they have had in the past. When asked about what the mound would look like this year for Butler, Hill shared “Zayn Carson and Maddox Fennewald will pitch the bulk of our varsity innings this year. Zayn took a big step forward last year and we are expecting him to get us deeper into games that he starts this season. Maddox had another good year on the mound and was one of the top pitchers in the conference as a Sophomore, the expectations are that he will be at or near the top of the conference again.”
With the youth coming in, and the veterans taking the lead at the mound and the plate, the Bears focus this off season has been on improving on their defensive play, Hill says, “Our goal is to be better defensively this year. I believe that our pitching is going to be a strength and if we can limit mistakes in the field we will be competitive every game.” He also says that he does believe the Bears will be a better team this year than in years past.
The Bears kicked off their season in the Lamar Classic, facing Lamar, Lockwood and Diamond March 17-20. The Bears have been participating in the Lamar Classic for some time now, and when asked about this, Hill says “We have generally competed well in the Lamar Classic. It’s a good way to start the year with a mix of teams that are around our size and we should be competitive in all 3 games.”
Be sure and check out some Bears baseball this season! They ended up having a decent season last year, and are only looking to take a step forward this year and in the years to come! Butler has a lot to be excited about this year and the community needs to come out and support this young, talented team!