Nathan Jones takes over as head coach of the Gainesville baseball program after three years as an assistant at Fordland. He inherits a program that finished 9-14 last season and went 6-10 this past fall.
Senior Cody Donley will be a team leader for the Bulldogs this year.
“The biggest strength we have on our team and in our outfield is the leadership and experience of senior Cody Donley,” Jones said. “I asked Cody to play every spot in the outfield this fall and he is the type of player that wants to do whatever to help the team be successful.”
Donley hit .271 with a .352 on-base percentage and 13 RBI this past fall. He will be joined in the outfield by Tanner Jennings, Ben Pointer, Jalen Evans and Ethan Chapman.
Pointer, a junior, also will be one of the top pitchers for Gainesville after leading the team in strikeouts and posting a 4.25 ERA this past fall. He also hit .323 with a .522 on-base percentage. Fellow junior Will Uchtman will shoulder a bulk of the innings load on the mound. Jennings along with freshmen Jake Leeker and Landry Jenkins will also see time on the mound this spring.
The infield defense will change frequently depending on who is pitching, but Uchtman, Jaxon Britt, Gavin Rowbotham, Pointer and Evans will all be in the mix to see infield time. Leeker, Jenkins and classmate Bryce Hambelton should also find time in the infield in their first seasons of varsity baseball.
Jones has confidence in his defense no matter the alignment of the players.
“I think we can be a very good defensive team. We had stretches this fall where our defense and pitching really did a nice job of helping us compete in a lot of games. We just have to be more consistent with it from game to game,” Jones said.
Offensively, Jones will look for consistency.
“We struggled at the plate in some games. We would have big innings here and there and then go quiet for innings at a time. So having a more consistent approach at the plate needs to be our main area of improvement,” Jones said.
Overall, Jones is seeking an improvement on last fall’s six-win season.
“We as a team know what our goals are and know what type of success we would all like to have. We also know the type of hard work that’s going to require from practice each and every day. We were 6-10 this fall and anything we can do to improve of that would be considered a success in my eyes,” Jones said.
Gainesville opens the season on Mar. 15 at home against Cabool.