WALNUT GROVE — The Walnut Grove High School baseball team is looking to make some noise in a loaded Region 8-AAAAA this spring.
With the chaos of the 2020 season now in the past, the Warriors are eager to begin again. The team will have to overcome the loss of seven seniors from a season ago but coach Carl Allen said he likes what we he has seen in the preseason from his 2021 squad.
“Things have gone well for the most part once we got out of the summer months,” Allen said. “There were so many rules about what you couldn’t do. It’s good to be back. All of our seniors from last season were a big part of this team whether in leadership roles or day to day work and the impact they had on the field. We hated to lose them, especially since we did not get to play a complete season.
Walnut Grove has five seniors for 2021 and underclassmen are also stepping up.
“We have some returning players who would have seen more time as the season went on last spring,” Allen said. “It has been interesting to see how some of them have responded in practice and scrimmages leading into this new season.”
Key players this season will include Nathan Hooks, Noah Brown, Hunter Hooks, Coby Wilkerson and Colby Hogan.
Nathan Hooks is a relief pitcher and Brown was the team’s number two pitcher in 2020. Hogan bats in the top half of the order and is being looked upon by coaches to have a standout season offensively.
Braxton Brooks contributed as a freshman and will be looked upon delivery even more for the Warriors in his sophomore year.
With a new region setback for 2021, Allen said the schedule will include several quality opponents.
“Loganville is always strong,” Allen said. “Greenbrier will be tough and Apalachee and Eastside are always solid. Jackson County has had good years in the past.”
So where does the third-year head coach see his Warriors among the region heavyweights?
“I thing we are right there in the mix,” Allen said.
One thing which will hopefully benefit the Warriors is a quality non-region slate of games.
“I’ve had some people ask about why schedule such a tough non-region schedule and the answer is simple,” Allen said. “We are trying to get prepared for the region games start. We knew region was going to be tough. You have play quality teams to help prepare you for later in the season.”
Allen, who spent two years as an assistant with the Walnut Grove program before moving up to head coach, said he likes the direction the program is taking.
“Overall, we have to keep getting better every day,” the coach said. “We have to get our pitchers dialed in and our batters as many looks as possible. We are always trying to get better.”