Bulldogs deal with second jump to AA

By Matt Hill

STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   The Hampton Bulldogs baseball team is moving on up. And unlike The Jeffersons, head coach Scotty Bunton is not too thrilled.
   Hampton won the Watauga Valley Conference title last season, but is now playing in the Class AA Watauga Conference. This means that the Bulldogs will be going up against much larger schools.
   "It's going to be tough on us," Bunton said. "We'll be the weak sister and the small school of all of it. We've played Happy Valley, Johnson County and Volunteer anyway, but those others that are usually in the upper echelon of the conference we haven't been playing.
   "It's going to be tough on the kids, I hope everybody bears with us. We've only got one senior on the team. Hopefully we can learn a little bit, and get better by the end of the season."
   Bunton does return five starters from last year, including pitcher and outfielder Kevin Harrison.
   Harrison had an 8-1 record on the mound, and hit .444 at the plate for the Bulldogs in 2001.
   Bunton is expecting more of the same this year.
   "He's going to have to step up big time this year," Bunton said.
   Bunton will also be counting on shortstop Josh Moss when he gets back from an ankle injury he suffered in a scrimmage last week.
   Moss hit .414 last season, and led the Bulldogs in hitting two years ago.
   "That's going to hurt us pretty badly," Bunton said.
   Another leader from last season is pitcher and outfielder Ryan Deskins. The senior will be expected to provide power, and to be another strong arm for the Bulldogs.
   Eric Swain will also be counted on to provide some good innings on the mound for Hampton.
   First base will be manned by Brad Hodge and Adam Miller, while Michael McCall will be at second.
   Robby England gets the nod at third base, and Dustin Crumley will be behind the plate.
   Swain and Justin Waycaster will also see a lot of time in what should be a solid Bulldog outfield.
   The Bulldogs should be hungry, as they were knocked out of the District 1-A Tournament early last season.
   Bunton says it was very disappointing.
   "There were a lot of disappointed players," Bunton said. "Nobody more disappointed than I was. I really thought we could make a little noise. They caught us at a down time I guess."
   Hampton will not be favored to do what it did in the regular season last year, and Bunton believes this campaign will definitely be a challenge.
   "It will be a big challenge," Bunton said. "It's kind of like starting over from when we first started, and they were used to winning a game or two a year. It's going to be tough for us, but not impossible."