Wolves reaping dividends

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 5, 2001

Qualifying for the playoffs is nothing new for the Monterey baseball program, after having earned a berth 10 of the past 12 years.

The Wolves (11-9) won the District 6B title with a 4-0 record and made it to the state quarterfinals in 2001 where they dropped a close 5-3 decision to the eventual state champions Pine Prairie.

With only two seniors leaving the team, head coach Hank Zizzi said he believes good things are in store for his Wolves during the next couple of years.

&uot;The mothers of one of the boys on the team ran into some people from Pine Prairie in a mall, and they told her that Monterey was the best team they faced in the playoffs,&uot; Zizzi said. &uot;I think that speaks well of our team. We will only lose two players for next year, but we will miss them. Some of our younger guys will have to really step up.&uot;

The two departing seniors, centerfielder Paul Coplen and catcher Chis Gatlin, each had big years.

Coplen batted .426 and was one of the fastest players on the squad, while Gatlin was known as one of the best guys behind the dish in the district.

The heart of the pitching staff returns with All-State selection Phillip Bryan (7-3 record and 3.7 ERA), and Beau Barfoot.

They will be joined by sophomore Ryan Kemp and probably freshman Chad Thomas.

A.J. Smith, who was honorable mention All-State as a sophomore after hitting .443, will move from first to catcher.

He will be joined by Barfoot and Bryan near the top of the order, but there are plenty of spots left to be won according to Zizzi.

&uot;We know A.J., Beau and Phillip can hit, we just need some of our other guys like Chris Dale, Ryan Perkins and Ryan Kemp to keep improving,&uot; he said.

Heath Dunigan and Seth Paul are also returning regulars, as is Tom Tiffee, who Zizzi said improved dramatically through the year. The rest of the team is made of up of freshmen and sophomores who will need to work on their games this summer if the Wolves are to push deeper into the playoffs in 2002.

&uot;We will have some talent and some experience, but we need those young guys to really improve during the offseason if we are going to get to where we want to be at the end of the year,&uot; Zizzi said.