By Phil Gibson
For the Hewitt-Trussville baseball and softball teams, 2013 promises to be an intriguing season. First-year baseball coach Jeff Mauldin is trying to mold his players into a championship-caliber team.
“Our first goal is we want to be area champion,” Mauldin said. “That’s something that hasn’t happened here in a long time. That’s our first step.”
To get there, the Huskies will have to continue to improve during their first season with a new coaching staff.
“We know with a new coaching staff, we’re getting to know the players and they’re getting to know us,” Mauldin said. “We feel like we’re going to be a lot better two months from now than we are today, but we feel good about where we’re at right now, too. We’re not at state championship-caliber right now, but we feel like we can be by the end of the year.”
Part of Mauldin’s philosophy is to steer away from over-reliance on individual performances. Instead, he advocates a team-focused approach to the game in which the entire depth chart is vital to success.
“We had a meeting about this (last week),” Mauldin said. “We don’t want to hang our hat on one or two individuals. Everybody on the team has a role and their role may change from day to day. We pride ourselves on maximizing our roster and using the strengths of every player on the roster.”
That’s not to say that the Huskies don’t have any standouts. Senior pitcher Grayson Jones will play at the University of Louisiana-Monroe next year. Fellow senior pitcher Bill Brown has committed to play at the University of South Alabama, and senior third baseman Connor Cox had a “fantastic offseason,” Mauldin said.
Softball coach Dusti Roberts has a lot of experience returning.
“I expect us to do well,” Roberts said. “We lost two seniors last year, and have a lot of talent coming up. We have a couple of leaders who are upperclassmen who’ve taken the team and pointed them in the right direction.”
Two of those players are senior pitcher Kimberly Mullins and all-around position player Kristen Bittle.
“Kristen kind of plays everywhere for us,” Roberts said. “She’s one of those that you can throw anywhere and be comfortable with her playing that position.”
Along with their development into leaders, Roberts has been most impressed with overall improvement of her team during the offseason.
“I think with maturity, we’ve improved so much in all three phases,” Roberts said
. “Our defense I feel is really solid. I would probably say that’s our greatest improvement. Offensively, it would just be a maturity thing. A lot of it started last year with our eighth-graders and freshmen, so that now they’ve kind of settled in and know what is expected. They know what it takes to win.”
The baseball team plays its first home game next Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. against Clay-Chalkville. The softball team opens its season Thursday at Clay-Chalkville at 5 p.m.