Kossuth keeping it simple

Tyler Mercer, a pitcher and catcher, is one of three seniors leading Kossuth this season. (File photo)

Tyler Mercer, a pitcher and catcher, is one of three seniors leading Kossuth this season. (File photo)

By Brandon Speck

Daily Journal

Kossuth is expected to be in the mix for a repeat Class 3A baseball title.

But new coach Trave Hopkins is keeping the goals simple.

“To get better,” Hopkins said. “Every day.”

Hopkins is a Walnut native and at 32, is in his second head coaching job – Hickory Flat was his first stop. He took over in June, not long after former coach Daniel Threadgill took a job in Vancleave after leading the Aggies to back-to-back 3A title series.

Two pieces are missing from last season, pitcher Josh Whitaker, whose arm was maybe the biggest key in the Aggies’ playoff run, and shortstop Blake Cain, who is focused on a commitment to the ministry. Cain hit .315 as a junior.

There are three seniors, P/C Tyler Mercer, 1B Matthew Woodruff and OF Zack Walker. Leading hitter Jacob Wilcher will be back as soon as basketball season ends. Wilcher was a Journal all-area pick as a freshman, hitting .443.

“We learned it’s not always one guy coming up with a big hit. It’s a combo of things,” Mercer said. “We’ve got to just make plays and not give outs away.”

Woodruff, the third-leading hitter in 2013, said players have benefited as Hopkins has implemented his own philosophies.

Step by step

Hopkins, who has a lengthy minor-league resume, isn’t the only new face. Assistant Kyle Nichols comes over from Samford.

“We’re just going to start out slow, division first, then work our way through the playoffs,” Walker said, “North half, if God’s willing, state, we hope.”

Hopkins says spots are still up for grabs, but in a good way as depth overflows at multiple spots.

The season begins with Saturday’s jamboree at Pontotoc. Kossuth will also host a classic with East Union and Thrasher.

“It’s exciting,” Hopkins said. “We’ve got a real good group of guys that work hard and the community works hard to support. It’s been a lot of fun so far.”

brandon.speck@journalinc.com