BY HARRISON TARR
FOR THE OBSERVER
High school baseball is a difficult place to have habitual success. Between naturally occurring roster turnover, consistent transfers of players and the challenge of operating within a 7A classification, maintaining the status of an annual contender is no simple feat.
Smiths Station head coach Mike Ferry is no stranger to the process. The silver and black entered the 2022 campaign having graduated a slew of talent and have been forced to reconfigure themselves to return to winning form.
The Panthers have shown promise in the early going, winning four of their first five contests and making positive strides every step of the way.
“We got a long way to go,” Ferry said. “But we’ll take the wins where we can get them.”
The inexperienced group most recently captured an 8-1 win over non-area opponent Eufaula in a contest which encouraged their skipper.
“We hit the ball pretty decent,” Ferry said. “We’ve got a young team. I say young, but that’s because four of our starters are returning from last year that were 10th graders last year. The rest of them are seniors that didn’t play a lot last year.”
Despite having a roster which is constructed of just four juniors, Ferry claims that the team is actively working to get the older group comfortable in their system.
“Even though we’ve got some older kids, we don’t have a ton of experience,” Ferry said. “It’s a growing process. We try to get to where we peak around spring break time because that’s when the games start really mattering.”
Although the vast majority of the 2022 senior class has little to no experience at the varsity level, the Panthers will continue to rely upon their only returning upperclassman starter: standout shortstop Logan Collins.
“We really only have one senior who was a starter last year, that’s Logan Collins” Ferry said. “He was probably the best hitter in the area. The kid hit close to .500 last year.”
Behind Collin’s on-field example, Ferry has seen improvement of his unproven group, claiming that — while some have picked up quicker than others — he expects the entire group to progress.
“Some of them are doing well,” Ferry said. “Some of them, it just takes a little longer to figure out the timing and the speed of the game. They’ll be fine, it’s just a growing process.”
As the silver and black look ahead to the remainder of their non-area schedule, Ferry looks forward to a weekend-long trip to face high-caliber opponents in Mobile.
“This weekend, we’ll be tested,” Ferry said. “We go down to mobile this weekend and we’ll play Mobile Christian — who’s a defending state champion — and UMS-Wright, who’s very good all the time, and then we play Gulf Shores down there as well.”
Taking an overnight trip to either Mobile or Huntsville has become a staple of the long-time skipper’s scheduling regimen, as he believes having the experience makes his team better prepared come later in the season.
“Every year, we try to get three or four games in a weekend and spend the night,” Ferry said. “We’ve got to make sure those guys can handle spending the night before we get in a situation where we have to do that and it matters.”
Smiths Station will have the opportunity to bolster its resume — and begin the weekend on the right note — when the Panthers take on the Leopards of Mobile Christian on Friday, Mar. 4 at 4:p.m. CST.