Inside the Batters Box: Monterey looking to avenge last year’s semifinal letdown

Published 12:14 am Monday, April 6, 2015

Senior Jake Cooper will be an important player both on the mound and in the heart of the batting order for the Monterey Wolves this year. (Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat)

Senior Jake Cooper will be an important player both on the mound and in the heart of the batting order for the Monterey Wolves this year. (Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat)

MONTEREY — The Monterey Wolves felt robbed after the LHSAA Class B Semifinals last year when they fell to Fairview, the eventual state champions.

Fast-forward to today, and the Wolves are looking to get right back to where they left off last season.

“We felt like we let it get away last year,” Monterey head coach Eric Richard said. “We made it to the semifinals and that is great, but we weren’t satisfied with that because we felt like we should’ve been the ones to win the whole thing. One thing we talked about before this year’s season was not being satisfied with what we did last year.”

But Richard and the Wolves will have to make do with an adjusted roster, after losing four players from last season. However, Monterey has six seniors on which to lean.

“It is very nice to have that,” Richard said. “With those guys, there is not a whole lot that I can teach them. Right now with this group, I tell people all the time it is about me getting them to the games on time and keeping the grass mowed. But it is nice to have a group that you can roll out there and they know what to expect from me and I know what to expect from them.”

Two seniors that will be in the limelight are Cade Passman and Jake Cooper, who will anchor the pitching staff.

“They were our two best pitchers from last year,” Richard said. “So we’ve got a good 1-2 punch with them. We feel like any time those guys are out on the mound, that we are going to have a chance to be competitive.”

But what has really helped the Wolves is the development of others on the mound.

“We’ve had a good addition from Ashton Blank as our number three pitcher and he’s given us some good innings,” Richard said. “Jake Barlow has also come in and given us some good innings. I feel pretty good about where we are pitching wise throughout the year.”

As for the lineup, Richard said things are beginning to piece together.

“We have a lot of turnover between our basketball and baseball players with most of our kids playing both, so it was a struggle early on,” he said. “We were very inconsistent early, but in the last four or five games since we’ve been able to play consistently, we are making better contact and starting to get set in the lineup.”

Cooper agreed, saying he felt confident about the Wolves’ bats up against anyone.

“I think we are solid one through nine,” he said. “We can hit anybody.”

When looking at his team thus far, Richard was honest and said they weren’t quite to where they wanted to be. However, he said he does believe they have the potential.”

“Right now, we aren’t as good as we were last year,” Richard said. “When you lose four kids like I lost last year, that were very experienced and smart baseball players, you aren’t going to be as good. Now, can this team be as good as that team at some point? Absolutely. Can we get back to that point? Yes. We aren’t playing bad, but I think we are getting better and better.”

For Cooper and the other five seniors, this will be their last shot at winning it all, and Cooper said that everyone realizes that.

“It would mean everything to win it all,” he said. “This is it. I know that we all realized it is going to be our last time together and know that we all have to lay it all out there. This is the most important season because we all win to win it all.”