Hampton baseball team  figures to be improved

By Matt Hill

   Hampton head baseball coach Scotty Bunton is hoping that experience and a good young group will lead the Bulldogs out of the doldrums in 2003.
   The Bulldogs are looking to improve on 2002's last-place Watauga Conference finish, and Bunton remains optimistic.
   "We should be a little bit improved," Bunton said Wednesday during practice. "We've got everybody back but one. We should be a little bit better, but we're just not all healthy yet. We've got some walking wounded."
   The key to the season might be senior pitcher Kevin Harrison. Harrison is recovering from an ACL injury he suffered at the end of football season.
   Harrison, who was hampered with injures last baseball season, is looking to get back to the form he had as a sophomore when he was an All-Northeast Tennessee selection.
   "A lot of our success will have to do with how Harrison can comeback," Bunton said. "If he can go on the mound and give me a strikeout now and then, we will be a little better team. If he doesn't, we're going to have to put somebody out there that can throw it over, and play good defense.
   "I would say Kevin is about 50 percent on his running and throwing. His hitting is coming along pretty good, but he's not anywhere close to being ready to really get out there and grind it out or anything."
   Eric Swain, Adam Miller, Brandon Barnett and Cody Scalf will be counted on for pitching duties. When needed, Josh Moss will move from his shortstop spot to pitch.
   Bunton does have a good situation going into this season, as his top three hitters from the last three years are back.
   Moss led the Bulldogs three years ago, Harrison led Hampton two years ago and Robby England topped the team in 2002.
   Swain and Moss will share leadoff duties, with the other one batting second for the 'Dogs.
   Harrison will bat third, with outfielder Robby England hitting in the clean-up spot.
   Adam Miller will be at third and will hit fifth, while catcher Dustin Crumley should usually hit sixth.
   First baseman Brad Hodge, Michael McCall and designated hitter Zack Trivette round out the Bulldog lineup.
   Gene Sanchez, Jimmy Sarrett, Zack Crabtree, and Lucas Roark should also see action.
   Bunton isn't thinking conference championship, but he's hoping his team can hold its own this year.
   "We hope we can be competitive," Bunton said. "That's the idea. If we can keep some close, maybe we can win one along the line."
   Bunton believes that the Watauga Conference is as tough as it has ever been, so he knows wins will have to be earned.
   "This year it's really, really equal," Bunton said. "There are about five teams in the conference that can beat each other on any given day. It's going to be real interesting."