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Can Rebels make it five?

Can Rebels make it five?
Can Rebels make it five?
Stephen Shaffer is one of five veteran seniors on the Lanesville baseball team for first-year coach Zach Payne. File photos by Brian Smith

Here lately, if you want to win the Class 1A Baseball sectional, the path must go through South Central’s program.
The 2015 season marks the 10-year anniversary of the program’s first sectional title in baseball. In the nine seasons since 2005, the Rebels have collected the hardware six times.
Lanesville snagged the title in 2010, helping prove at the 1A level, Harrison County baseball is a tough out come tournament time.
Here is a look at the upcoming season for Lanesville and South Central (Corydon Central and North Harrison’s baseball previews appeared in last week’s edition).
The Eagles are working quick this spring. That’s by design.
First-year coach Zach Payne takes over the Eagles’ baseball program, instilling players to work quick.
‘Some of the changes we’ve had is the pace of practice,’ Payne said. ‘It has been a big difference for the kids. I’ve tried to speed them up a lot. I like them to practice fast, that way, when we get to games, it’s a lot slower. There is less stress.’
Payne comes to Lanesville after four years as the junior varsity coach at Providence. There is coaching in his bloodlines with his brother, Sean Payne, the leader of the Providence softball program.
‘I always wanted to get into coaching,’ the Providence graduate said. ‘I was hired in December and had to learn 26 brand new faces and names.’
That number, 26, stands out for Payne thus far.
‘What has impressed me the most is our depth for a 1A team,’ he said. ‘I have eight or nine guys that I would feel comfortable pitching in a varsity game. I didn’t expect that. There is not only pitching depth, but depth in the field. I can see different kids entering in the fifth or sixth inning off the bench to make plays for us.’
At the disposal for Payne is a five-some of seniors who have been on the varsity diamond for several years.
A few arms are in the senior group, including Stephen Shaffer, Jon Ferree, Jacob Chanley and Josh Barnes. The fifth senior, Caleb Gresham, has sat behind the plate all four years.
‘Jon Ferree can do it all for us,’ Payne said. ‘I feel like we can put him anywhere on the field. Right now he is an infielder … He’ll be a key pitcher and strong at the plate.’
With Gresham, Payne said he’s been easy to coach.
‘There isn’t much I’ve had to tell him and it’s a credit to the work he’s put in at catcher and the previous staff,’ Payne said.
Juniors on the varsity squad include Lucas Timberlake, Jon Will and Joe Ferree.
There is a talented sophomore group as well, with many playing as freshmen last season.
‘Brendon Bube is going to be a good player for us, especially on the mound,’ Payne said. ‘I’ve been impressed with how much baseball he’s played. There are a lot of other guys that will contribute. Ryan McCubbins and Greg Daly are sophomores that will be key pieces. I hope Greg gets healthy. He adds some speed on the bases.’
Others in the sophomore group include Evan Peele, Noah Campbell and Tommy Tidstrom. Freshmen Noah Jones and Mitchell Bailey also are looked on to contribute.
‘The seniors are a strong group, as are the sophomores,’ Payne said. ‘It’s good to have a lot of experience mixed with younger guys. The seniors have made it a lot easier on me to transfer from the old coaching staff to the new one. They’ve been very open and willing to learn.’
One sticking point is the ability to work fast.
‘We like to work quick,’ he said. ‘Our pitching coach is a stickler for that. We want our pitchers to get going and not allow a lot of standing around. If you have a pitcher working slow, then the guys in the field get to standing around. They get bored. We want to play quick and stay focused.’
Payne said he’s contemplated several line-up possibilities, looking to put players in position to ‘succeed and win games.’
South Central
The Rebels enter the season ranked No. 3 in the IHSBCA Class A poll. Much of the respect comes from South Central winning four straight sectional titles.
Although three seniors graduated last season, including lefty pitcher Nathan Shaffer and all-state outfielder Austin Knear, four seniors head a group poised to strive for sectional No. 5 in a row.
‘The plan is always to win a sectional,’ South Central coach Brian McKnight said. ‘Lanesville and Borden will be tough. This fifth one will be tough to get. We’ll have to play some good baseball toward the end of the year to get it done.’
A pair of arms ‘ Nick Veith and Cory Ray ‘ are at the top of the rotation.
Veith has been a mainstay on the bump since his sophomore year. Now a senior, he is coupled with fellow upperclassmen Parker Gabhart, Alex Goforth and Jack Turner.
‘We lost three good seniors, but we have four good seniors taking their spots,’ McKnight said. ‘It’s their third year as starters, so they have played a lot. As a group, you can tell they’ve come together in the last four years. They are really good team leaders.’
Veith provides plenty of speed in the two-hole. He can also play shortstop when Ray takes the hill. Goforth was the team leader in home runs last year and takes over center field.
‘We went ahead and let Alex take over center field,’ McKnight said. ‘He’s a pretty good leader. He’ll take command out there and get everyone going.’
Goforth is penciled in the power part of the lineup that also features catcher Gabhart and first baseman Turner.
‘Parker is a kid that has physically matured since he was a freshman,’ McKnight said. ‘Nick Veith has grown and picked up 30 pounds in the offseason. Jack still has his quick, short stroke and has been hitting the ball well.’
From there, the coach has been plugging guys in spots. Ray has played shortstop since he was a freshman and is set there again as a junior. He’ll also pitch. McKnight said Ray is ‘a solid baseball player who loves the game and knows what he is doing out there.’
Logan May and Lucas Veith will see increased time this season, competing for third base. At second, Austin Schoen and Briar Stark are looking to earn playing time.
Around Goforth in center, Cody Baelz and Joe Logsdon provide the defense in the corner outfield spots.
McKnight points to Logsdon, a sophomore, for winning an outfield spot as a rookie last season.
‘He played a lot as a freshman,’ McKnight said. ‘He was the one that stepped forward when there was competition there last year.’
Pitching, McKnight is confident in his depth. It will be tested early.
‘Parker, Alex and Lucas Veith are going to throw some too,’ he said. ‘We have a couple of other kids that can eat up innings if we have to. We have seven games the first week. We’ll throw our arms and see what they do.’
Defense, particularly throwing, has been a focus in the pre-season.
‘We want to throw the baseball where it needs to go,’ McKnight said. ‘We don’t want throwing errors. With us, we rarely let a ball go through our legs, but we want to make sure to make good throws where they need to go.’
A challenging, full schedule hopes to prepare the Rebels for another deep postseason trek.
‘We’re going to play as many games as they’ll let us,’ McKnight said. ‘For a single A team, we run into a lot of 2A and 3A teams and we still have (Class 4A No. 1) Floyd Central on the schedule.’