Coach Deron McDonald and his staff may have the best baseball team seen around Franklin County High School in several years.
We may well know more about that today when the Flyers face a rugged district test at Woodford County (5:30 p.m.).
But on a cool early evening Tuesday against a decent Henry County team, McDonald’s Flyers looked like a potent baseball team.
Franklin County pounded out 16 hits - including five triples - rode the six-hit pitching of junior Brandon Smither, and played very good defense behind Smither in posting a 13-3 victory over the Wildcats.
FCHS improved to 8-3, while Henry County fell to 3-6.
McDonald said the biggest difference in this team over the past couple is simply experience.
“These are the same kids we had last year, they are just a year older and stronger,” McDonald said. “Offensively and defensively, that is. Pitching-wise, we have had to replace all of our pitching. But in terms of strength and quickness, there’s a big difference in the kids in one year. They’ve seen a whole lot of things, and they have developed a whole lot in a year.”
Especially offensively. The Flyers displayed both power and balance at the plate in methodically ripping the Wildcats. Designated hitter Zach Arnold had a triple and a double, and third baseman Logan Crum added a triple and a single. But 14 other Flyers had hits as McDonald was able to empty his bench.
Samuel Mackey, David Current and Quenton Brownlee all had a triple apiece, Logan Woodside hit a double, and Eric Meyer, Dawson Willis, Conner Brown, Nick Redmon, Dylan Wright, Blake Redmon, Smither and Rylan Rowe all hit one single apiece.
A six-run outburst in the first inning and a four-run third inning gave Franklin County a 10-1 lead and allowed McDonald to get a lot of experience for the younger Flyers.
McDonald said this may be the best team he’s had offensively since his 2001 Final Four outfit that had 50 home runs.
“This is one of the better hitting teams we’ve had since I’ve been here,” McDonald said. “Obviously it doesn’t compare to that 2001 class, but there were some serious studs in that group. But this team can flat out stroke it, too. And they do a really good job when they are really focused on running the bases and executing ... those types of things.
“If our pitching will keep us in games, we will find a way to win.”
McDonald hopes Monday’s sluggish 8-6 win at Madison Southern, and Tuesday’s win over Henry County have relieved the rust from last week’s spring break and prepared the Flyers for the game at Woodford County today.
“Coming off spring break, we went down to Madison Southern and didn’t play very well at all yesterday,” McDonald said. “We pulled out a win, but we didn’t play the way we’ve been playing.
“The big thing today is we finally got a chance to take batting practice before a game,” he added. “We were playing at home for once. For us to come out and hit the ball right off the bat (six hits in the six-run first inning) the way we did ... I can see a big improvement in our kids staying on the baseball. We have some kids who are starting to find their stroke. We hit the ball hard today.”
And Smither was in control throughout, striking out three batters and walking just three.
“Brandon looked pretty good today,” McDonald said. “He has a couple things to work on, but for the most part when he keeps the ball down in the zone and keeps that movement, he’s really tough to hit. You can’t square up on him. He and Nick (Cumpston) are both like that.
“Our pitching has been better than we anticipated early on,” McDonald added. “The kids have done a really good job focusing on throwing two and three pitches for strikes and locating the ball, and not worrying so much about how hard they are throwing it. If you locate it and get good movement, then velocity is just a bonus.”
Defensively, McDonald said the Flyers are good, but must get better if they are to compete with the likes of Woodford County and some of the other top-flight powers in this region.
But he said, again, that Tuesday’s win was a good sign.
“For them to stay focused in a game like this and only make two errors is pretty good,” McDonald said. “And we played a lot of kids, too. The good thing is the kids we brought off the bench didn’t make any errors, and they put up several hits. They went out and competed.”