Wednesday, March 27, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> March perfect for Bison boys

Leader sports editor

It’s still early, but the Carlisle Bison have started the 2013 baseball season with the same momentum and vigor that took them to the class 2A state title game last spring with a 5-0 run through the month of March.

Spring break and unpredictable weather have combined to give the Bison a two-week break before they finally picked back up on their schedule with a non-conference game at Bigelow last night.

With six seniors graduated from last year’s state runner-up team, this year had all the indications of a rebuilding season with only one senior on the roster, but an impressive 7-3 victory over 4A contender Heber Springs served notice that the Bison are still for real. Carlisle won its first two 2A-6 Conference games with a doubleheader sweep of Palestine-Wheatley just before spring break.

The team is also adjusting to a change at the helm, as last year’s coach B.J. Greene took over at Heber Springs for 2013, while last year’s assistant and basketball head coach William Rountree took over the Bison program.

“We’ve been pleased with the start,” Rountree said. “We’ve got some younger guys who have played some, and some others with a little bit of experience, and they’ve come together and played well. We’re not into the meat of our schedule, but so far, we’ve been pleased. We’ve got to get better like everyone else, but they’ve done well so far.”

Chris Hart is the only senior on this year’s team. The two-time all-state player starts at shortstop and pitcher, and so far has a 2-0 record on the mound and is batting close to .500. Junior Josh Mathis is the Bison’s ace pitcher and leadoff batter. The all-conference player starts at first base when not on the mound, and so far is 3-0 in games he has started as pitcher.

Another junior, Austin Reed, starts at second base and shortstop, batting third in the lineup in front of classmate Deron Ricks, who leads the team in RBIs from his cleanup position.

Junior third baseman Dylan Brazeale is 8 of 9 from the plate through the first five games, while sophomore Nick Schafer solidified his spot in the lineup with a big RBI in the nightcap victory over Palestine-Wheatley.

Also in the lineup are junior Tyler Young and sophomore Thomas McCauley, with selected starts at the catcher position for sophomore Jacob Garden, who Rountree said has been solid early on.

The Bison started the season with a pair of blowout wins with a 12-1 rout over England and a 15-1 victory against Bigelow. The win over Heber Springs proceeded 8-4 and 6-4 victories over a solid Palestine-Wheatley team to give Carlisle a 2-0 league record heading into spring break.

“Palestine Wheatley is a good team,” Rountree said. “They played us tough. They’re really improved. Hazen is pretty good this year, they have a bunch of guys back. I don’t know a lot about Des Arc’s personnel this year, but through the years, they have been good.

“The way we do it in conference, it’s always doubleheaders, so you can’t afford to have a bad day. You could end up losing two if you have a bad one.”

The Bison will play a 2A-6 Conference doubleheader at Des Arc on Thursday.