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Tigers face Bibb, ACA Monday

Before the Demopolis High School baseball team takes to the field for the first time next week in Centreville, head coach Ben Ramer must answer a handful of questions. He has to identify who will be his opening day starter as well as figuring out who will get the start in a number of positions.

The Tigers return to the diamond this year without 2009’s top arms of Shelby Speegle and Trey Oates.

“We lost our No. 1 and No. 2 (pitchers) last year,” Ramer said. “We’ve got a lot of question marks in that area. We’ve got a a lot of guys who actually threw in varsity games last year. I would say we’re throwing as many as 15 to 20 guys right now.”

Ramer is hopeful that arms like William Stewart and Bill Holemon can develop to complement Chase Cameron and Ben Pettus, who both started varsity games a year ago.

The other half of the battery is also new as long-time catcher Jacob Kerby is no longer in DHS blue and white.

While the Tigers are missing a lot of the usual faces, they do return a great deal of experience off a 2009 team that lost to Tallassee in the first round of the state playoffs.

Demopolis has varsity experience at nearly every position on the field. In the outfield, Cameron Barger, Will Hill and Logan Holley logged significant innings a season ago. Around the horn, Chase Cameron put in time at third while Pettus, Kole Thrasher and Larry Dunn held down starting positions at short, second and first respectively for all of 2009.

“We’re a little thin in the outfield,” Ramer said. “We’ve got a lot of depth on the infield.”

Ramer said one of the Tigers’ best chances at success will begin with their senior class, which consists of Dunn, Barger, Hill, Austin Holley and Hunter Wells.

“Those are the five (players) that have stuck it out. They have stayed on,” Ramer said. “They have been big contributors over the last few years and that is what we are expecting of them this year. We’ve talked to them about being leaders. We want them to recognize their full potential this year because it is their year.”

Ramer is also pleased with the depth his team is offering this season.

“We’ve reached a stable point in the program,” Ramer said. “We’ve got guys that, if they’re not on the field, they’re going to be ready to get on the field.”

While the faces on the field are different in key positions, it is the new and old faces in the dugout that may give the Tigers their best chance to win.

The Tigers have added assistant coach Kevin May, who worked as a volunteer assistant with Marengo Academy during the state finals runs of the last two years.

“We’ve been understaffed the last few years out there and it’s good to have a good baseball guy who is really excited about helping us out,” Ramer said, conceding that three coaches will have an easier time working with the 35 players in the program than two would. “He’s a young guy that can relate to a lot of our players. He’s going to be the head junior varsity guy and help with the varsity. We’re just really excited that (the board of education) gave us the opportunity to have him out there to help us out.”

Ramer and May will be joined in the dugout by assistant coach James Moody, who makes his return to Demopolis after a two-year tenure at Trinity in Montgomery.

“Coach Moody is in charge of our pitchers and catchers. He’s got a world of knowledge to help these kids in maximizing their opportunities to be good at those positions,” Ramer said. “Even though that is his specialty, that’s not going to be what he is limited to. He is an asset to the entire team, to the entire program, not just our pitchers.”

As Ramer and his staff attempt to identify their starters out of the gate, they are also hoping to make an impact in the way their roster views the game.

“The one thing that we’ve got to get better at between now and (opening day) is the way that we approach the game,” Ramer said. “We’re spending a lot of time working on that right now. All that stuff is going to get better as our mental approach gets better. And that’s going to come from leadership.”

Demopolis opens on the road at Centreville Monday where it will play American Christian and Bibb County.

“We play some bulldogs that first week,” Ramer said. “Our schedule does not afford us to get a feel for the game. Any time we show up and are not ready, we are going to get embarrassed.”

The Tigers will wrap up their week at home when they play Leroy and Wetumpka in a tournament that will also feature Greenville.