By Harrison Tarr
For the Observer
When the Opelika Baseball program took the field on Tuesday, March 29, against Russell County, the red and black were given the opportunity to recognize 10 individuals for their hard work, commitment and dedication to bettering Bulldog baseball.
Head coach Zachary Blatt and the teammates of Harrison Long, Brantley Davis, Kydylan Ligon, Luke Murray, Jacob Smith, Paul Goodman, Brooks Bryan, JT McArdle, Jonathan Daniel Chase and Landon Lee ensured that they walked away victorious on their senior night.
“It was a good opportunity,” Blatt said. “It’s one of the biggest senior classes we’ve had and we’re playing some pretty good baseball so just keep it rolling as area play wraps up.”
The head coach of the Dawgs mentioned that the presence of the large senior class has been impactful due to the group’s collective ability to lead one another in different capacities.
“We have a few guys especially that have kind of taken on that leadership role,” Blatt said. “Brooks Bryan and Luke Murray are kind of the two that stick out the most. All the other guys — for the most part — have been in the program. So they’ve kind of figured out what we’re trying to do, the type of baseball that we want to play.”
Blatt noted that seniors such as Bryan and Murray have not only impacted their teammates, but have also played an instrumental role in the development of younger members within the program.
“When you have guys that have done it for so long it does make it a lot easier when it comes to teaching younger kids,” Blatt said. “When we go through our drill series and different things at practice, they’re there to help correct and help coach the younger ones up.”
Between the groundwork laid on the field and the continued assistance in bettering the younger members of the program, the 2022 Bulldog senior class finds itself in control of its own destiny.
“We obviously control our own destiny, being undefeated right now,” Blatt said. “We’ve been playing pretty good. The bats have come live and the pitching continues to be decent.”
Although acknowledging his team’s positive positioning as the season draws to a close, Blatt added that there are still unknowns within his squad, most notably on the mound.
“We’re still trying to figure some things out,” Blatt said. “We’ve had to throw some younger guys due to injuries and other issues. But they’re coming in, competing and giving us a chance.”
Despite having to throw a handful of younger arms, Blatt has been encouraged by his team’s defensive efforts as of late.
“Lately, I mean (against Eufaula) we played an error-free game,” Blatt said. “I’d say pitchers throwing strikes, that’s the biggest thing. Eliminating those free bases, whether it be walks or errors, and forcing teams to put the ball in play.”
Between the group’s continued upward trend and the return of health to the roster, the skipper believes that his group is more than capable of making a deep run in the AHSAA playoffs come may.
“We played a tough schedule early in the year and we competed,” Blatt said. “If we play baseball the way we’re capable of playing the game — if our pitchers go in and pound the strike zone and give us a chance — I think our offense is always going to give a chance if we can keep it close.”
The area-unbeaten Dawgs are back in action on Thursday, April 7, when the group plays host to Eufaula for a double header beginning at 4:30 p.m. CST.