Things are looking up for the Wheatland Mules coming of a three-win season a year ago. Last year they were forced to play much of the season with just nine players, but this year coach Pat Dougherty expects to have 15 players.
“(Our biggest strength) could be our numbers,” Dougherty said. “We should have 15 out, which doesn’t sound like much, but coming off last year in which we had nine most of the season, it could be huge. Having the ability to move guys around, or substitute will be valuable.”
Pitching for the Mules will be improved this year. Josh Gallaway led the team in innings pitched as a freshman with 30 1/3. KJ Griffin is also back for her sophomore season after posting a 1.24 ERA in 11 1/3 innings. Freshmen James Burnett and Tyler Dampier are expected to make an immediate impact on the mound. Trystin Newbold did not pitch as a junior, but will also see time on the mound.
Newbold will anchor the defense at shortstop. Gallaway will be a utility player when not pitching seeing time all over the field. Griffin will play either second base or a corner infield spot. Dampier, despite being a lefty, could see time at catcher or shortstop in addition to first base. Burnett will catch or play corner infield when not on the mound.
Austin Rife (sophomore), Jacob Paul (senior), Davin Smith (senior), Zeke Rusk (junior), Jon Stewart (freshman), Corbin Evans (junior), Chandler Smith (freshman), Josh Lewton (freshman), Colton Nichols (freshman), and Avery Wheeler (freshman) will be players to watch to fill out the outfield and the lineup.
Dougherty will look for improvement across the board to be successful this season.
“Our pitching needs to be better and should be better as already mentioned. We also need to do a better job of getting on base. We should be better suited to accomplish this as well, and should be able to make some things happen via the bunt, steal, etc,” Dougherty said. “Defensively we will need to improve as well. Once again, I think we should be able to do that also. We have some athletic newcomers to add to the returners, so we should be able to improve upon last season.”
Wheatland opens the season on Mar. 16 at home against Hermitage.