Clopton baseball co-head coach Luke Hemphill answered a series of questions last week about the teams recently completed season.
Louisiana Press-Journal: How did the season measure up against your expectations?
Luke Hemphill: Coming into the season, I really didn’t have any expectations because I wasn’t asked to coach the team until a few days before the season started. I didn’t know any of the players at all. After seeing the guys practice a week or two, I thought we would be able to compete with most teams. We finished the conference schedule in about the middle of the pack. We had nice wins against [Louisiana], Mark Twain, Van Far and North Calloway. We definitely struggled against better teams.
LPJ: Are there any moments in the season that particularly stand out for you?
LH: I’d say our win at North Callaway was our most memorable game. We were struggling going into that game, and we hadn’t beat North Callaway in years. It was an exciting game and the win gave the guys a little bit of confidence they needed. We played better the rest of the way.
LPJ: How about standout players? Who led the team this year? Who beat expectations?
LH: We had several standout players. Damian Walker, our lone senior, anchored the cleanup spot all year and led the team with 14 RBIs.
Shawn Yates played a solid second base and led the team with a .450 average. Shawn always had a good approach at the plate and is a tough out.
Dalton Strus set the table for the team all year. He batted .370 and led the team in runs scored and stolen bases. Dalton is a fearless hitter, no matter who is pitching or what the count is. Dalton received First Team All-Conference Honors.
Jusin Jennewein had a nice sophomore season. He caught most of our games and received Second Team All-Conference honors. He threw out base stealers at a 40 percent rate which is very good. He also excelled at the plate with an on-base percentage of .500.
Freshman Landon Strus was probably our best defender playing some shortstop, third base and catching some. He’s a kid you can put anywhere on the field and help the team. Landon hit .357 and led the team in doubles.
Maleek McPike played a strong center field and pitched well for the team. Maleek has really nice arm talent. He threw out four runners from center field and was probably our best pitcher by the end of the season
LPJ: I suspect it’s hard to look this far ahead, but what’s next for the team? As far as you can tell now, what are it’s prospects going forward?
LH: This team should have high expectations for next year. We’re only losing one senior. All of our pitchers will be back and our younger players should get better. It should be a deep team, so there will be competition for playing time. A district title should be the goal for next year. For that to happen we need our pitchers to put in the work to get better. We should score a lot of runs next year so we could be a winning team if the pitching could improve.