Outlook good for Longhorns

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   MOUNTAIN CITY -- Johnson County head baseball coach Pete Pavusek should join the local Optimist Club. He sure does have high hopes for the Longhorns this coming season.
   Those high hopes are probably well-validated, as seven regular players return from a squad that finished 10-4 in Watauga Conference action last season.
   The Longhorns did lose some key members from last year's team, but Pavusek thinks they have enough good players to be competitive in 2002.
   "We lost quite a bit," Pavusek said. "But we've got some good juniors and seniors. We'll do just fine."
   Pavusek admitted losing one of the school's all-time greats in pitcher Chris Gambill to graduation will be a big loss for the Longhorns, but he thinks others are going to step up to make this season a success.
   "Our kids are really stepping up," Pavusek said. "We've got decent pitching, we will hit the ball better, we'll play better defense, and our outfield should be a lot better. We should do just fine."
   Johnson County's ace on the mound will be Jon Arnold, who gained a lot of valuable experience last season as a sophomore.
   "He's a good one," Pavusek said. "He gives it everything he's got. I love the way he handles himself. He does real well. He's a good kid."
   Another pitcher that Pavusek has high hopes for is left-hander Adam Johnson. He definitely has good arm-strength, as he was the quarterback on Johnson County's playoff football team.
   "He'll throw a wrinkle at you," Pavusek said. "He's pretty decent."
   Other pitchers Pavusek will rely on this season include Junior Paisley, Jon Westphal and Chad Reece.
   As far as hitting the baseball, Pavusek is expecting the power to come from catcher/designated hitter Jeff Lewis, first baseman Judd Townsend and Johnson, who will play in the outfield when he's not pitching.
   Those three are big sticks," Pavusek said. "But top to bottom our lineup is a pretty good lineup."
   Lewis will definitely be counted on to hit the baseball out of the park, as he tied for the Watauga Conference lead with 10 homers in 2001.
   When Lewis is the designated hitter, Michael Reid and Brandon Henson will be taking care of the catching duties.
   Arnold will play second base when he's not on the mound, and Paisley is scheduled to be the starting shortstop.
   Adam Leonard and Reece will be the regulars at third.
   Reid should also see time in leftfield, as will Joe Atwood and Johnson.
   Matt McQueen and Jamie Roberts will be in center, while Westphal and Aaron Sluder will be playing in right.
   Despite the success that the Longhorns have had in recent years, they don't seem to get a lot of respect.
   Pavusek is hoping to prove people wrong once again.
   "I would like to think people are counting on us to be in the top few of the conference," Pavusek said. "People don't expect us to do much, but I think we've got a better team than to be down at the bottom.
   Pavusek believes this Longhorn team might struggle early, but will eventually be tough to beat.
   "We might take our lumps early," Pavusek said. "But we'll get our head screwed on straight."