FARINA — South Central coach Curt Jones admittedly lost a lot of talent from last season's team, a squad that advanced to the St. Elmo Sectional final before falling to eventual Class 1A state champion St. Anthony.
In spite of this loss, the Cougas exceeded all of Jones' expectations this fall, winning 16 games and capturing the NTC regular season championship with a roster that was short on experience.
"We didn't know what we were going to get," Jones said. "They surprised me, so that's a good thing."
Now in his 16th season at the helm, Jones attributes the success to the attitude of this year's team. While there may not be any special athletic specimens, Jones says his team's record this spring will reflect their love of the game.
"They're a bunch of kids that like baseball, which is good," he said. "It makes it easier to coach when you have kids like that. Whatever ability they do have, they're getting the most out of that ability."
The Cougars will need to squeeze every drop of their collective talents on the mound, as Jones believes the majority of his team are better position players. One arm he will rely on heavily is senior lefty Daniel Diss.
"Dan is probably the one who's emerged as our best overall pitcher," Jones said. "He had the most success with this group this fall. He throws a little faster, probably more experienced."
Sophomore Noah Powless could be the X-factor for Jones' rotation. The strong underclassman has been hard at work on another pitch that escapes his coaches description, and will likely escape opposing bats as well.
"He developed a new pitch that is pretty nasty," Jones said. "It's sort of like a split-finger fastball, I don't even know what to call it. High school kids will not hit it, but he's a little all over the place. If he can figure that out he's going to be good."Shawn Meyer, a reliable senior, gives Jones a third arm to use in his rotation. Meyer doesn't possess tremendous speed on his pitches, but will give the defenders behind him plenty of chances to make plays.