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Marlboro County High School
Bennettsville

Young Bulldogs making progress under new head coach

 

By David Shelton

Senior Writer

Bennettsville – It is not unusual, when a new coach takes over a program, for there to be some feeling out period as the coach attempts to make a connection with the players.

It certainly helps the transition process if the new coach is someone already familiar with the program and its personnel.

At Marlboro County High, first-year baseball coach Ryan Pierce has the advantage of knowing his new team. Pierce spent five years as an assistant in the program before being named as the head coach last summer. Pierce replaced Philip Blue, who led the program to its best seasons in recent years.

Pierce feels he has learned a lot under Blue over the last five years and is excited to take the next step in his coaching career at a place he knows well.

“Definitely, being here the last five years is going to help me,” the coach said. “We had a down season this past year but we were very young. I was here during some really good seasons too. Two years in a row we set a school record for wins and we won playoff games. I know it can be done if we put our heads down and work hard.”

The new coach and his team have gotten off to a decent start in 2019, splitting their first eight games. Among the wins early was a key region victory over Myrtle Beach. Pierce is hoping for more success as his team improves.

“We haven’t been great yet and there is always that feeling that we could have done some things to win a few more games,” the coach said. “But for as young as we are in some places, 4-4 is a good start We have a lot of young guys out there, especially on the mound. We don’t return much in the way of varsity experience and there is a difference between getting junior varsity hitters out and getting varsity hitters out, especially in our region. We have the arms and we’re competing well for about five innings or so. We just have to gain experience and learn how to pitch at the varsity level. We’re getting that experience every day.”

Sophomore Bryant Parks is the team’s top pitcher, according to Pierce. Junior Cory McCall and sophomores Tanner Cheek, Jessie Williams and Tristan McDonald are getting plenty of work as well.

Parks is the regular starter at second base with Cheek and junior Noah Murphy also sharing playing time there.

The leadership on this year’s team comes from its three seniors – outfielders Jett Herndon, Dalton Sweatt and Tyler Ingram. Herndon is a fourth-year varsity starter.

“We lean a lot on those seniors to help these young guys and they’ve been great leaders so far,” Pierce said. “We started six sophomores against Myrtle Beach so the youth is getting thrown into the fire.”

Junior JJ McDonald is working behind the plate again this season and has been one of the top hitters early on. Tristan McDonald and McCall share duties at first base while junior Kenny Mears, who did not play last season, is a defensive whiz at shortstop. Williams is starting at third.

 Also competing for playing time are Levi Radford, Kutler Williams, Robert Crosland and Hewston Owens.

“We preach all the time about just trying to learn and improve each day,” Pierce said. “It’s all about gaining experience and adjusting to the game at this level. This team has a good attitude and a good work ethic. We have good talent as well. We just need to grow and mature and learn.”

Pierce says one of his major goals is to create excitement for the baseball program by reaching out more to the community.

“We want to get our fans excited about Marlboro County baseball and get more out to the games,” said the coach. “We want folks to come out and see our kids play and we want our players to be a big part of this community as well.”

 

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